In the past decade, most of the fentanyl seized by U.S. authorities originated from China. However, according to a new government report, Mexico has become the dominant source of this synthetic opioid in America. Drug traffickers smuggle this potent and dangerous drug across the U.S.-Mexico border, contributing to the nationwide substance abuse and overdose epidemic.
Understanding the Opioid Epidemic
The opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, when the pharmaceutical industry began promoting prescription drugs like OxyContin as safe, non-habit-forming painkillers. Tragically, this claim turned out to be false, and millions of people ended up dependent on opioids as a result.
Despite states’ efforts to pass laws restricting health professionals from prescribing opioids, more than 100 people a day still die of accidental opioid overdoses – often because they’ve started buying drugs illegally to maintain their addictions. These illicit drugs aren’t subject to the same approval processes as prescription medications, and are typically much riskier and more addictive.
What Is Fentanyl?
Black-market fentanyl is the driving force behind the dramatic rise in overdose deaths related to the drug in recent years. This human-made opioid is many times more potent than heroin and morphine. For most people, a dose as small as two milligrams is enough to be fatal.
Many drug dealers use fentanyl to cut batches of other substances to stretch their supplies further and get people hooked more quickly. The recent report from the Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking identifies the presence of fentanyl in America as a public health emergency that threatens our national security and economic well-being: “In terms of loss of life and damage to the economy, illicit synthetic opioids have the effect of a slow-motion weapon of mass destruction in pill form.”
Warning Signs of a Fentanyl Overdose
Because it is an opioid, fentanyl binds to the receptors in your brain, causing euphoria while simultaneously affecting the central nervous system as a depressant. A fentanyl overdose can occur within minutes of taking the drug, so recognizing the warning signs and responding quickly can mean the difference between life and death.
Usually, an opioid overdose victim will be unresponsive, with clammy skin and a bluish tint around their lips and fingernails. Their heart rate and breathing will be much slower than normal, and you might hear a gurgling or rattling sound coming from their throat.
You can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose by immediately calling 911 and administering a medication called naloxone (also known by its brand name Narcan), which can block the effects of fentanyl and other opioids. If you or someone in your household relies on opioid drugs, it’s wise to get a supply of naloxone and ensure everyone knows where it is and how to use it.
How to Get Help for an Opioid Addiction
Overcoming a substance use disorder is possible with treatment on a full continuum of care, including medical detox and evidence-based therapies designed to help you get your life back on track. At New Found Life, we’ve been providing accredited addiction treatment in Long Beach since 1993. Let us equip you with the tools you need to manage the disease of addiction and achieve sobriety. Start your journey by requesting help today.