In recent months, we have all seen the impact the heroin epidemic has had on the United States, particularly on Butler County. Some of us have witnessed it first-hand, others have learned about it from the media — but all of us are aware of the dangers of the heroin epidemic. Well recently there has been an added concern to this epidemic: fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a prescription drug that “is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Like heroin, fentanyl is an opiate. Thus, like heroin, fentanyl can produce effects of euphoria and relaxation in a person.
Terrifyingly, fentanyl has proven to be more deadly than heroin. In a September 24 press release, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported fentanyl to be “30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.” Thus, fentanyl is often mixed with heroin in order to achieve more significant (and more deadly) effects. In Ohio in 2014 there were 502 deaths related to fentanyl overdoses, according to the ODH press release. Comparatively, in 2013, there were 84 instances of fentanyl-related drug overdoses in Ohio, as shown in ODH’s “2014 Ohio Drug Overdose Preliminary Data: General Findings.” This drastic increase in death proves that fentanyl abuse is not something to be taken lightly.
The government of Ohio is certainly taking the threat of fentanyl seriously. The ODH press release states, “Ohio is working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fully analyze Ohio’s fentanyl-related drug overdose data so that local and state officials, law enforcement and doctors better understand the nature of the fentanyl problem in Ohio and how to address it.”
The Ohio government has also published an outline of specific actions they are going to take to fight the rise in fentanyl use. One such action is investing $1 million over the course of two years toward increasing the availability of naloxone, which is an opiate antagonist used when people overdose. Other government plans include reaching out to health professionals, launching a public awareness campaign, and maintaining good communication between drug task forces.
While the government has plans laid out, what can we, as normal citizens, do to help? Sojourner believes in the power of prevention education. Making yourself and others aware of the fentanyl trend is a step in the right direction. So I invite you to take a minute to read up on fentanyl through the links provided above; familiarize yourself with an issue in your community. Knowledge is power.