According to the 2018 National Vital Statistics System report, Fentanyl has now surpassed the less potent opioid heroin as the most dangerous and deadly opioid drug, causing the most opioid drug deaths in the United States as a result of the drug epidemic. The opioid epidemic is devastating Florida, the United States, and the whole world. Some parts of the united states have been so hurt by the effects of skyrocketing drug deaths that they are currently taking Purdue Pharma, one of the pharmaceutical companies producing opioid medicines like Oxycontin, to court. The case that they are bringing is asserting that Purdue Pharma falsely marketed the prescription opioid medication Oxycontin when it was first brought to market. When first released Purdue as they made a big effort to convince doctors and patients alike that the drug is less addictive than other opioids, in fact they were striving to make people believe that the prescription was quite safe. In reality the medication is just as deadly as its other cousin prescription opioids such as vicodin. Even codeine, an opioid that many deem to be quite safe, can be deadly when taken outside of a physician’s orders. One state government points out the false portrayal of Oxycontin’s safety as a contributing factor in the success of the stair step method that opioids seem to take their victims on. Opioids can drive a person easily from a prescription opioid given by a doctor all the way through to an illicit and deadly fentanyl addiction. Essentially the lawsuit is stating that Purdue Pharma is culpable for the many deaths that opioids cause when they take someone from Oxycontin through to overdose due to opioid addiction. Those are stark charges to bring against a pharmaceutical company, but it is hard to deny the devastation that our nation has experienced due to the effects of this epidemic which makes it quite easy to understand how many would want to hold Purdue accountable.
In Florida, just like in the the wider United States, the powerful opioid, fentanyl has been monopolizing the headlines for a while as it took little time building up on its way to passing heroin as the deadliest opioid on the streets, but fentanyl wasn’t always so available in the drug scene. It first began exploding in the market when a few prominent people ended up passing away from overdoses due to the narcotic medication. Famous musicians and cultural icons, both Michael Jackson and Prince died from a barrage of different substances within them, but with both of these stars the biggest factors in their deadly and tragic overdoses was the presence of fentanyl in the mixture. Other celebrities have overdosed in the spotlight and far more people who are not in the spotlight who are out of the public eye and perhaps a bit more anonymous and a bit less privileged but no less important use the drug everyday and are at risk of death.
These days we awake to devastating headlines that read about more than just those celebrities. We are reading about more and more of the everyday individual overdosing. We are also finding new stories relating to fentanyl in the headlines. These are stories about how the drug is hurting unwilling users. Even non-users are starting to feel the physical effects of the drug as they encounter it incidentally. For instance first responders, who are risking their lives and wellbeing everyday are coming into contact with fentanyl and they are not always informed on the safety procedures necessary to come out of the situation unaffected. Everything from police officers to prison guards, public responders and civil servants of all kinds are finding that they have no idea of how to safely manage any situation with the medication were they to encounter it at a crime scene or as they are trying to save someone from a possible overdose. Fentanyl is rather dangerous to users no matter what form it is taken in, but sometimes you don’t have to intentionally intake fentanyl for it to negatively impact your physical wellbeing.
One of the different kinds of ways fentanyl ends up being the most dangerous is when it is in a powdered or pulverized state. At such a point as this if the drug comes in contact with someone’s eyes, or if they breathe the fentanyl in through their nose or mouth, even a small dose can cause problematic results.
In fact, according to The Associated Press, in an Ohio prison, thirty people were recently treated for an exposure to what they believe to be a combination of both heroin and fentanyl cut together. The prison was put on lockdown after the exposure and the people who were affected by the airborne substances were taken to a hospital. In a different instance in Massachusetts saw police officers being exposed to Fentanyl while they were responding to what appeared to be a citizen’s fatal overdose. The police officers were exposed to large amounts of Fentanyl and quite soon afterward those who were exposed to the drug began to experience different exposure symptoms such as nausea and vertigo. People’s stories like these are popping up more often in headlines and finding themselves all over our news feeds on social media platforms as the opioid crisis surges from a prescription pain pill crisis, to a heroin crisis to, and finally and quite possibly most devastating of all, the Fentanyl crisis. Every single opioid available are incredibly dangerous, but even after heroin which surpasses the other opioids dramatically in potency, Fentanyl can be up to 100x more dangerous than heroin.
Fentanyl Has Many Nicknames – It Is Also Known As:
Prescription Fentanyl is often also called:
When combined with heroin it can also be called:
- China Girl
- China White
- Dance Fever
- Murder 8
- Tango & Cash
Fentanyl has driven the opioid epidemic from a place where the average person in America, those who haven’t been dealing with chemical dependence and perhaps didn’t even know someone who was suffering from an addiction, to a country where in almost everyone knows someone who is being overrun and controlled by a substance that is likely absolutely taking over their lives, or perhaps it’s just starting to be a problem for them but it is sneaking in to their lives even now. Even in the very rare moments when someone isn’t aware of anyone around them with a problem such as this, they have likely read headlines and stories of those dying across the country and across the world as they are taken by Fentanyl, or even other opioids. It is certainly hard to miss word of this devastation as all the way from political events to impassioned messages from celebrities and other public figures all pleading for more research and answers as this, one of the most deadly struggles in the world’s history rages on and continues to kill.
In fact enormous amounts of people, and the numbers are climbing, right now are starting to experiment and consistently intake this high potency opioid. The number of hospitalizations due to fentanyl are rising and those overdoses are often fatal because of how very little the drug needs to affect a person’s body. As we are seeing so many more deaths a higher number of our emergency responders are consequently exposed to fentanyl every single day either through an overdosed patient, or as a security or police officer checks a person and discovers the substance in their clothing or somewhere else on them. Some first responders who just recently reported that they felt the effects of the opioid drug required treatment after they were in contact with the drug only very briefly, but it was via an environment where the intoxicant was airborne.
It should be more than clear that when even those who keep us safe are afraid of a substance simply through an accidental exposure that we have a bigger problem than we are currently able to deal with. These are usually our saviors so how do we save them and us? Perhaps this is why the United States Department of Justice released a video this year in hopes of quelling the first responders fears that the drug is potent enough for them to die from just touching the substance. The much needed video is offered by the DOJ as a means of education for first respondents and emergency respondents to assist them in understanding all of the possible ways they can protect themselves against the effects of the highly dangerous substance. This video has something to offer the everyday citizen as well so that they can be informed of how to deal with the intoxicant if they ever encounter the substance.
How Can Someone Protect Themselves
For a first responder or any kind of emergency personnel such as a police officer or firefighter, to understand how they should protect themself against the drug they first have to understand the circumstances in which they may be exposed to Fentanyl to begin with. Whether the person is a police officer, emergency medical technician, a firefighter, or some other type of official service member there will always be different kinds of scenarios for every person as even two police officers can tell you, every call is different because no two humans are the same. However, here are a few different ways that Fentanyl exposure can occur:
Exposure to Fentanyl Could Happen Through:
- Injected into the veins
- Injected into the muscle
- Breathed in
- Skin Contact
- Eye Membrane
As a first responder, or anyone who may incidentally come in to contact with the drug, need only take some proper precautions in order to remain healthy and safe, and indeed in most situations unaffected by the opioid altogether.
Safety Measures To Take with Possible Exposure To Fentanyl:
Never do this:
- Never Assume It’s Safe – if a first responder or other person is exposed to a substance like Fentanyl and are not sure what the substance is, always assume that it could be dangerous. Never underestimate an unknown subject.
- Never Taste It – This cannot be said enough. Ingesting any drug is one of the most common ways to administer a drug, especially opioids, not to mention a common way that first responders and others have accidental exposure to the drug.
- Never Smell It – First responders in shows or movies often sniff an unknown substance to try and identify it but in reality one should never sniff an unknown subject since a person’s nostrils have some of the most sensitive bio-availability in the body, this is why snorting substances like opioids or cocaine can be a faster way of feeling their effects.
- Never Feel It – Though it is less likely that skin contact will cause an overdose or really even greatly affect a person, it is true that prolonged skin contact can cause some absorption of the drug. Some first responders have even reported experiencing symptoms after just touching the substance.
Always do this:
- Always Double Up When You Glove Up – Double your gloves for extra protection against this sensitive drug and as the Department of Justice’s video says, do not use hand sanitizer to clean your hands after exposure. It could hasten and worsen the effects of the drug.
- Always Wear a Protective Breathing Mask – Fentanyl is at its most dangerous for first responders when it is airborne. If large amounts of Fentanyl are in powder form in the air or the environment, leave the situation immediately and alert the law enforcement and health officials immediately.
- Always Protect Your Eye Membrane With Safety Goggles – In their video to first responders the United States Department of Justice warns against the exposure to your eye membrane though previously Canada’s Public Services Health and Safety Association said in a fact sheet that they have released that it has not been verified that an exposure via the ocular membrane could drastically affect a person. Regardless of the truth here, goggles will go a long way to keep a person’s eyes protected.
- Always Know What You’re Looking For – The Department of Justice did the right thing by releasing the above video to educate our first responders about the dangers of fentanyl, both the mythology of the danger and the realities of it. The most important thing a person can do to keep themselves safe is to understand how to recognize the substance and how to recognize fentanyl intoxication in other people, as well as in themselves.
What Do We Know?
So we know that Fentanyl is causing fatal overdoses in droves and the phenomenon is not local to South Florida, in fact it is sweeping the nation and all the while fentanyl is making a name for itself outside of its other opioid cousins such as morphine, heroin, and oxycontin and other prescription pain pills. It doesn’t matter if a person is intentionally intaking the devastating drug on their own and on purpose, or perhaps they think that the drugs they have been giving themselves could have been laced with Fentanyl, it is even possible that the person is a first responder who has been hurt or affected by an accidental ingestion or other type of exposure of the opioid, but regardless, it is important to know what the signs and symptoms of overdose from fentanyl are.
Signs and Symptoms of Overdose
- Severe exhaustion, lethargy, or sleepiness
- Lack of response
- May exhibit slow or relaxed breathing
- Lips or nails may become bluish
- Skin may become cold and clammy
- Heart rate may slow
- Pulmonary function may be inhibited
- Pupils may become narrow like the head of a pin
It is also vital to understand what the current state of the fentanyl tragedy is in the sunshine state, as well as for humanity as a whole, in the United States and across the world. As we are witnessing the opioid crisis ebb and flow under the heavy eyes of world wide scrutiny, Fentanyl is making a name for itself as an opioid that is used on its own and in the company of other opioids, making it versatile and attractive to many different kinds of drug and alcohol addicts. Fentanyl takes the opioid epidemic in a new place and as we watch opioid deaths from some drugs decrease we watch the fatal overdose deaths by fentanyl sore steadily onward. The Boston Herald states that the latest Department of Public Health data shows that though heroin is becoming less popular by itself, the news is not all good because fentanyl users now trend to cocaine laced with fentanyl instead, and heroin laced with fentanyl is also a cocktail on the rise.
“According to the DPH’s quarterly report, the presence of fentanyl in opioid-related overdose deaths statewide reached an all-time high in 2017, with traces of the potent opioid found in 90 percent of such deaths; that alarming rate remained at 90 percent through the first quarter of this year. The figure represents a more than 100 percent increase since 2014, when fentanyl was present in 40 percent of overdose deaths, according to the DPH quarterly report.”
Will Even Fentanyl Be Surpassed As The Most Potent Opioid?
Even as the fire rages and we lose more loved ones and musical icons and vital community members to the devastating effects of opioids, particularly high potency opioids like fentanyl, humanity refuses to stop innovating. Can it be possible that a new opioid is about to hit the market that is even more potent than fentanyl?
It is a blessing and a curse perhaps, this need to reach further and make things bigger and better or bigger and badder than they ever have been, to reach for the limits that we didn’t even know were there before we tried – but in this case if it is consistent with the way other new potent opioids have gone in the past, a new and more potent opioid could cause a kind of death by drug overdose that this world has never seen. Since the start of the modern opioid epidemic, Fentanyl has reigned as the boss. Not only has fentanyl been killing people on it’s own but the new trend of taking users over the edge and closer to fatal overdose with their usual drug of choice when fentanyl is cut into such intoxicants as heroin or cocaine.
Fentanyl is a type of synthetic drug that has been used for years in such medical practices as a way for a medical practitioners to ease a patient into unconsciousness in preparation for surgery, as well as used in post-surgery to block pain. The drug was developed in the 1960’s as a pain medication and anesthetic. When it was first designed the drug was closely regulated and mostly was only available through a doctor’s prescription only. Though this was true, just like with most different medications, the longer they have been on the market the more humans decide to innovate and make it easier for the general public to access the drug. Pretty soon after its development fentanyl started to be available to be taken with ease in the form of a subdermal patch. In the 1990s the drug could easily be taken at home or even on the go, as patients are living out their normal everyday lives. There is obviously something very appealing in being able to take a pain medication with you wherever you go.
These innovations are likely well meaning to help those who are in need, but the unintended consequences of easier access can and must be weight against easier access. Since the day the patch was released fentanyl access has exploded within the United States as an illicitly taken prescription medication, as if it were Oxycontin or codeine, however fentanyl makes such opioids look like a simple dose of over the counter pain meds, which in and of themselves can cause terrible harm when taken outside of the safety dosages given on the bottle. Prescription opioid medications are some of the most effective gateway drugs in history as people go from codeine, to vicodin, to heroin to fentanyl and all too often to their graves. Even the Dare program couldn’t have predicted this. Who looks for the next drug crisis to come from a simple doctor’s script?
Thinking of all of fentanyl’s deadly effects, it is quite easy to understand that there are many physicians and first responders who are incredibly concerned about the fact that the US Food and Drug Association have now approved the use of a brand new, and even more terribly potent opioid, Dsuvia. This opioid is in fact ten times more deadly than fentanyl. Dsuvia was designed and developed by AcelRx Pharmaceuticals. The development of the opioid and was supported by the United States military and has now passed inspection by the FDA.
Even among the members of the considering committee for the FDA there were those who were in disagreement about whether or not it was necessary or good to release another highly dangerous opioid to the public. Dr. Raeford Brown, the chair of the committee and a anesthesiology and pediatrics professor at the University of Kentucky, showed his own concern about Dsuvia, a drug which he noted comes in the form that can be “easily diverted”—meaning someone, even someone without a prescription, may have easy access to the drug and as we know with other medications like fentanyl, when a drug moves into an easy to administer form they become available to the general public, illicitly on the street, very quickly. “This drug offers no advance, in my mind, over previously available opioid formulations, but provides great risk of harm to patients and the general public health,” Brown told Marketwatch in an interview.
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First responders can take all the precautions suggested by the DOJ to stay safe from opioid exposure, but there isn’t a video that will ever show a safe place to hide from exposure to an opioid drug when you are someone who is yourself struggling with an addiction to fentanyl. Those people who have struggled with opioid addiction know how powerful the tolerance is that opioids engender within their addicts. It’s not unlikely that a person who is intentionally using Fentanyl could have started in a doctor’s office or hospital due to some kind of pain, with a prescription to a substantially less dangerous opioid such as the likes of hydrocodone or even codeine. Chemical dependency is quick and persistent. Addicts who have fought opioid addiction know all too well just that minor triggers lead to major cravings. Fentanyl is startlingly powerful and dangerous, and often underestimated.
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- Panic Attack
- Body Ache
- Stomach Cramps
- Profuse Sweating
- Flu Like Symptoms
- Large Pupils
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