Prescription drug abuse cases hit national high

by Jessica Snyder

Chart of opioid deaths in Arizona. Data collected from azfamily.com. Chart created by Jessica Snyder

The opioid epidemic is not breaking news locally or nationally. However, the rise in Fentanyl use and deaths is steadily climbing. According to a report by ABC 15 News, in 2017, Arizona police seized 121,000 pills containing this synthetic drug, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, the second deadliest drug and big player in the opioid crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other local and national health authorities have been trying to find out why so many people are using a drug that can kill with such a small dosage. So far, findings suggest that Fentanyl is cheap compared to other street drugs and it is easy to make, which results in it being widely available.

“I never got addicted, but was heavily on it after my major traumas. Withdrawals suck,” said Russel Tiger, a Glendale resident who was prescribed Fentanyl after being hit by a car. “It’s just like heroin, which is a derivative of it. Morphine and Fentanyl are the same, just purer…not counting the Mexican version which is cut.”

Fentanyl is back on the national radar after actress/singer Demi Lovato overdosed on a drug laced with it on July 24, 2018. More than 30,000 deaths across the country are a direct result of Fentanyl. Fentanyl is being sold in street pills such as Percocet, Xanax and Hydrocodone as well as being mixed with cocaine, and heroin. A dose as small as the tip of a finger (as little as .25 milligrams) can kill a person.

“Heroin is laced with Fentanyl all the time. People shooting up can easily overdose. It is literally the devil,” said Dylan Wood, a recovering heroin addict.

Three men died from what appears to be Fentanyl overdose Aug. 5 in a Glendale home. Officers responded to a report of three dead adult males near 59th and Pasadena avenues around 7 a.m., according to a story by azfamily.com. Officers found both Fentanyl and methamphetamines in the home, along with other drug paraphernalia.

Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled, which can result in death. Because of the chemical structure of Fentanyl, it has rapid and extremely potent effects on a person’s brain and body. While less doctors are prescribing drugs with Fentanyl, cartels are cutting more and more of their drugs with it as it can be produced quickly and at very low cost, resulting in much higher profits.

“People are out there thinking they are buying oxycodone but don’t understand it is most likely Fentanyl. So, they are taking it and overdosing,” said Manuel Pacheco, Glendale resident.

Fentanyl abuse is a prevalent problem in the current opioid epidemic. The number of deaths from the drug doubled from 2016 to 2017 and is not slowing down in 2018, with 116 people dying on average per day. To put it in perspective, Fentanyl killed $5,000 more people than heroin did in 2017.

“As a recovering opiate addict, I was chasing Hydrocodone and went up to OxyContin and Methadone. They passed a law that made it hard to get pills and the street value of one Hydrocodone was $10. In order to get high, I needed $100 just to function. Heroin was $10 a capsule and was stronger so most opiate addicts switched to snorting heroin pills in order to have the best heroin they started cutting it with Fentanyl. [This is a] very dangerous drug, being it takes such a small amount to overdose and die,” said Charles Rosenbaum, a recovering addict who is three years sober.

With cartels crossing the border into Arizona from Mexico, this problem is not slowing down. Street drugs have a high probability of being cut with Fentanyl and unknowing users could be taking lethal doses, making the death toll keep rising.

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