In 2015, over 30,000 people died from opiate and opioid drug overdose. In that same year, opioids killed more people than guns. And as we approach the end of 2017, there’s no sign of any improvement. In fact, the super-powerful opioid fentanyl has been killing more users across the nation than ever before.
The drug is manufactured in Chinese labs and then smuggled into the United States, flooding the streets with what users think is a type of powdered heroin called China White. Real China White is prized by users partly because it can be snorted, bypassing the need for injection. But if it’s fentanyl, which is some 50 times stronger than heroin, and not heroin, then a user’s typical dose will likely be strong enough to kill.
Fentanyl is used medically to control severe pain. The dose is in micrograms. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram. The drug is metabolized very quickly and cannot be taken as a pill. It’s available in skin patches, lollipops and lozenges. It’s also used in injectable form to rapidly induce anesthesia. And for those who seek it on the street, it’s generally a white powder. A deadly white powder.
Even Worse: Carfentanyl
More recently, the ultra-strong opioid carfentanyl has been making its appearance on the United States’ black market for drugs. Carfentanyl is at least some 5,000 times stronger than heroin. It has no human use at all. It’s used to anesthetize huge animals like elephants and hippos, animals which weigh many tons.
To put that into perspective, it takes about 3 milligrams to immobilize an elephant. Three milligrams is three-thousandths of a gram, an incredibly small amount to be able to bring down such a big animal. No wonder it’s been so deadly for American users. Many of them don’t even know they’re about to use such a powerful drug. For many, it’s their last use. The drug is so powerful that it often fails to respond to traditional opioid antidote drugs such as naloxone.
Drug Treatment Centers Rally to Combat the Problem
So how are the nation’s treatment and detox centers responding to such a widespread and seemingly uncontrollable problem? Most are using the following methods:
- Increase in sober living residences
- Intensive in-patient programs
- Drug-assisted detox management
Treatment centers are reaching out to the community and also to the medical community. Many place blame on the current epidemic on doctors who they believe are over-prescribing, whether it’s to make more money or just out of ignorance, or else in a misguided effort to help the patient’s pain. Treatment centers offer seminars, print pamphlets, and urge parents to lock up their controlled substances. If someone is already addicted, they urge them into treatment right away.
Drug-assisted detox is a critical part of opioid addiction treatment. The withdrawal process is very painful and many patients will refuse to go to treatment based on that alone. By offering drug-assisted withdrawal protocols that keep a client relatively comfortable, they can coax more people into getting the help they need.
The Opioid Abuse Epidemic and Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a serious disease of the liver. It can cause symptoms such as jaundice, dark urine, pain in the abdomen, nausea, itching and joint pain. It’s caused by a virus known as HCV. The virus may not cause symptoms for up to 30 years after exposure, giving the victim little idea that they’re infected. But the whole time, the damage to the liver is occurring.
Hepatitis C can also kill.
Hepatitis C is generally spread by blood-to-blood contact with the blood of an infected person. For medical personnel, this could mean an accidental needle stick. For the public, Hepatitis C is spread mostly by unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person and by sharing dirty needles.
Hepatitis C, up until recently, was not curable. Today there are some curative treatments for some strains of the virus, but these treatments are outrageously expensive, have side effects of their own, and like any treatment, may not work for everyone. The treatment may fail, or else the patient can’t tolerate it. In that case, the only other option for a failing liver would be a transplant. Thousands die every year waiting for a suitable organ. Hepatitis C is a disease best avoided in the first place.
- Since the advent of the opioid epidemic, cases of Hepatitis C have tripled due to the practice among addicts of sharing needles.
Addicts share needles and spread blood-borne serious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV. Drug treatment centers must now accommodate patients with two or three life-threatening diseases: the addiction, and hepatitis C or HIV. Sometimes they must deal with all three at once. All drug treatment centers have physicians on staff. If you think you may have contracted a blood-borne disease, which can happen from a single instance of needle-sharing, speak up. When you go to treatment, ask to be tested.
No Easy Solutions
Are there any answers? What is really causing the opioid epidemic? The truth is, there are no simple answers to the problem. The fact is, most people who take opioids under medical supervision do not become addicted. Addiction appears to be a function of genetics and environment and affects about ten percent of the population. These are the individuals who may start out using opioids medically, become addicted because their brains like it so much, and then when they can no longer get the drugs legally, they seek them on the black market and then fall into a devastating addiction.
Anyone buying illegal drugs on the street courts death every time they do so. There is no way to know the strength or purity of what they are getting.
Do you need help?
Drug treatment centers across the nation are working hard to combat the problem. They are there for those who have fallen and may be stuck, not sure what to do. If you have found yourself in such a position, don’t hesitate. Ask for help! No one is going to blame you or scold you. You can call us 24 hours a day. We are here to help and to advise, not to blame. It’s all confidential, and we are eager to help you get your life back on track. Call now! 888-380-0667