Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Originally developed as a pain reliever for cancer patients, it is now widely abused as a recreational drug. Fentanyl is highly addictive and can cause serious health complications, including overdose and death. But even those who do not use drugs should be concerned about fentanyl for several reasons.
First and foremost, fentanyl is extremely dangerous. The drug is so potent that it only takes a tiny amount to cause an overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl was involved in more than 36,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2019 alone. Many of these deaths were not caused by intentional drug use but rather by accidental exposure to fentanyl-laced drugs. For example, a person who takes a pill they believe to be oxycodone may unknowingly be taking a pill that contains fentanyl, which can be fatal.
Secondly, fentanyl is a public health crisis that affects everyone. The opioid epidemic has ravaged communities across the United States, with devastating consequences for families and individuals. In addition to the thousands of overdose deaths, there are also significant economic costs associated with the opioid epidemic, including lost productivity and increased healthcare costs. The epidemic has also led to increased crime rates and strain on social services.
Thirdly, fentanyl is not just a problem in the United States. The drug is increasingly being shipped from overseas, particularly from China and Mexico, and is now a global issue. This means that even people who do not live in the United States are at risk of being exposed to fentanyl. Furthermore, the global drug trade fuels violence and instability in countries where drug cartels operate.
Lastly, fentanyl is a symptom of a larger problem: the over-prescription and abuse of prescription painkillers. The rise of fentanyl can be traced back to the over-prescription of opioid painkillers in the 1990s and early 2000s. This led to a surge in opioid addiction, which in turn led to the development and sale of illegal opioids like fentanyl. Addressing the opioid epidemic requires a multifaceted approach that includes increased access to addiction treatment, better regulation of prescription painkillers, and increased public education about the risks of opioid addiction.