On May 10, 2022, the U.S. acknowledged the first official national fentanyl awareness day.
Fentanyl has overtaken the illicit drug industry by storm and force. Countless unsuspecting people have experienced this drug’s deadly effects, and countless more use the drug deliberately. With the astonishing statistics of fentanyl use coming to light over the past few years, many have called for legal actions to help reverse the outcome of fentanyl use. Here’s what’s being done and how things are going in the battle against fentanyl in 2022.
A Drug That Demands Respect
Just 2 mg. That’s all it takes for a dose of fentanyl to be considered lethal. This powerful opioid is upward of 100 times more potent than its morphine counterpart and 50 times more potent than heroin. Medical fentanyl use dates back to the 1960s for treating chronic pain management, particularly for cancer patients and severe surgery recovery. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “from 2011 through 2018, both fatal overdoses associated with abuse of clandestinely produced fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, and law enforcement encounters increased markedly.”
The DEA also cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased dramatically each year between 2012 to 2018.
Fentanyl is one of the most potent drugs in the illicit drug trade worldwide, which gets a great deal of attention for that fact. On May 10, 2022, the U.S. acknowledged the first official national fentanyl awareness day, and the data shared on the official website shows why:
- Fentanyl is involved in more American youth drug deaths than heroin, meth, cocaine, benzos, and prescription drugs combined.
- Fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under age 50 than any other cause of death.
- Almost all seized pills by law enforcement are fake, with 40% containing potentially lethal amounts of fentanyl.
- Fentanyl-involved deaths are the fastest growing among 14- to 23-year-olds.
These statistics are startling, and many people have no doubt experienced the deadly effects of fentanyl drug use, either directly or indirectly, in a friend or loved one. Part of the reason this drug has entered the arena “by force”—and what makes it so dangerous—is because of the practice of drug cutting in the illicit drug industry. Because of fentanyl’s incredible potency and addiction potential, it is a favorite drug of choice. People use it as a cutting agent for other drugs or to completely mimic a different drug altogether.
This means many people who die from a lethal fentanyl overdose have no intention of taking the drug whatsoever. Instead, they may have been attempting to get their hands on a range of illicit drugs, anything from stimulant drugs like cocaine to even benzodiazepines like Xanax. This makes the problem of drug mixing even more lethal, such as when people decide to use alcohol without realizing they have fentanyl in their system.
Mixing alcohol with a powerful opioid like fentanyl (and whatever else is mixed with their counterfeit drug) can largely increase the negative effects of both drugs, creating a deadly combination of overdose symptoms. Again, this is true of many people who had no intention of using fentanyl in the first place.
So what is the legal response to this dangerous situation? Some generally positive trends have been happening in various states in recent years. In 2018, the DEA ordered all fentanyl-related drugs illegal in the United States. However, that order expired in 2020, and the effect of making fentanyl-related drugs illegal in the United States has not remedied the overdose issues associated with the drug- up to this point. A recent event was held in Texas where Gov. Greg Abbott announced an expansion of Narcan availability, a drug used as a life-saving measure to combat opioid overdoses. This is one of the most important first lines of defense to counteract the overdose statistics related to fentanyl use. Meanwhile, lawsuits are being filed against fentanyl pain patches, alleging the patches have led to brain injuries, respiratory depression, overdose, and addiction. Another action includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ legislation, increasing the mandatory minimum sentence for fentanyl trafficking from three to eight years for 4 to 14 grams and 15 to 20 years for 14 to 28 grams.
Perhaps the most substantial legal action at the federal level is Bruce’s Law, which authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to launch a public education and awareness campaign. This campaign focuses on drug dangers and the contamination of fentanyl in the drug supply. Additionally, this law authorizes the HHS to establish a work group focused on fentanyl contamination. The summary of the function of this group includes consulting with experts to improve responses toward fentanyl overdose and educating school-aged children and youth to understand the dangers of fentanyl-related drug contamination.
Doing Our Part
Admittedly, these legal actions are all helpful, but they can only provide the tools to empower people who haven’t yet experienced the deadly effects of fentanyl or its highly addictive potential. It’s very important to break the cycle of addiction, which serves as the first line of defense against the potential for overdose. However, this brings up the importance of helping those who have already been ravaged by this drug. This means we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and point those overtaken by this drug on a road to recovery.
Frankly, anyone addicted to an illicit substance runs the risk of being addicted to fentanyl since this drug has found itself in virtually all drug supplies. The good news is fentanyl addiction can be effectively treated. If you or anyone you know is addicted to an illicit substance, seek professional medical help. The likelihood of fentanyl involvement is very high, which means the risk is too great to be ignored.
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Fentanyl Awareness Day. (n.d.). National Fentanyl Awareness Day. Retrieved https://www.fentanylawarenessday.org/?ACSTrackingID=USCDC_1026-DM81606&ACSTrackingLabel=National%20Fentanyl%20Awareness%20Day&deliveryName=USCDC_1026-DM81606
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Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Guide to Alcohol Detox: Severity, Dangers, and Timeline. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/alcohol/detox/
DOJ. (2020 Jan 28). California’s Four U.S. Attorneys Agree It’s Time for a Permanent Ban on FEntanyl Analogues. Retrieved https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/californias-four-us-attorneys-agree-it-s-time-permanent-ban-fentanyl-analogues
Texas.Gov. (2022 Aug 28). Governor Abbott Announces New Initiatives To Combat Opioid Crisis At Montgomery County 2022 Overdose Awareness Event. Retrieved https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-announces-new-initiatives-to-combat-opioid-crisis-at-montgomery-county-2022-overdose-awareness-event
NIH. (2021 June). What is Fentanyl? Retrieved https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
Impact Law. (2022). The Fentanyl Lawsuit. Retrieved https://www.impactlaw.com/dangerous-drugs/fentanyl
Florida Government. (2022 May 19). Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Legislation Cracking Down on Opioid Dealers and Traffickers. Retrieved https://www.flgov.com/2022/05/19/governor-ron-desantis-signs-legislation-cracking-down-on-opioid-dealers-and-traffickers/#:~:text=Increases%20the%20mandatory%20minimum%20sentence,years%20for%2014%2D28%20grams.
United States Senator for Alaska. (2022 Jun 8). Senators Introduce Bruce’s Law to Help Combat Deadly Fentanyl Epidemic. Retrieved https://www.murkowski.senate.gov/press/release/senators-introduce-bruces-law-to-help-combat_deadly-fentanyl-epidemic-
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