When it first began making headlines, the opioid epidemic was often viewed by Americans as just another news story that did not exactly impact them or their loved ones. However, as years have gone by, more and more Americans are abusing opioids at a rapidly increasing rate. Now, similar to other conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or depression, it seems as though everyone knows someone who is struggling with an opioid addiction.
Over the past five years, deaths caused by opioid overdoses have increased 33 percent. In some states, the increase in opioid overdoses is reaching a nearly 200 percent increase. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 30 states within the country have experienced increases in deaths caused by opioid overdoses, including New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and North Dakota.
While these states have seen massive rises in the abuse of opioids, South Carolina is currently grappling with the largest heroin death rate in the country at a 57 percent increase between 2014 and 2015. North Carolina also saw an exceptional increase, as did Tennessee.
For many of these states, heroin is the main culprit behind the rise in opioid overdoses. However, another opioid, fentanyl, is starting to take center stage within the country, including in South Carolina and the greater Lancaster area. This medication has a hand in the dramatic increase in opioid-related deaths within most recent years.
Fentanyl is a prescription opioid medication that is often used in the treatment of moderate to severe physical pain stemming from a surgery or other form of medical procedure, as well as acute short-term pain. This medication is exceptionally potent, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports it to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. What was once a medication only able to be obtained through a physician’s prescription, fentanyl is now available for illicit purchase on the streets, and is known through nicknames such as Goodfella, China White, and Tango.
When Fentanyl is abused, it can produce a series of dangerous effects including, however not limited to, decreased heart rate, shakiness, cognitive abnormalities, rapid breathing, anxiety, convulsions, and even death. Individuals who are drawn to the abuse of Fentanyl enjoy it for the euphoric and relaxing high that it produces, which is very similar to the high induced by heroin.
Because Fentanyl is becoming a main staple in opioid-related overdoses, it is imperative that not only people throughout South Carolina obtain stronger education on this deadly substance, but that people from all corners of the country do, too. Learning about this medication, its effects, the symptoms of its abuse, and more can help individuals throughout communities spot someone who is in need of professional treatment. Additionally, greater awareness can aid in decreasing the prevalence of abuse of this specific substance within communities. As more individuals are educated about the dangers of fentanyl, younger generations who might have otherwise experimented with this substance can steer clear of its use.