When COVID-19 became a public health issue in 2020, it had the side effect of aggravating other health problems. With hospitals overloaded, human contact limited, and nearly everyone under chronic stress, even people never exposed to COVID were at higher risk of mental and behavioral disorders.
Even as the COVID pandemic continues to abate, higher levels of mental illness and drug use remain as an unpleasant legacy. Sad to say, illegal drug trafficking was one industry that saw a major increase in business during the pandemic—and, given drugs’ addictive nature, there was no automatic reduction in that business as society reopened.
One drug problem that has truly multiplied exponentially: the availability of fentanyl.
A synthetic opioid developed in 1959 and initially used in anesthesia, fentanyl has become a major illicit-use problem since 2011. Even before the pandemic, fentanyl overdose deaths were past 30,000 a year and rising. By 2021, annual drug overdose fatalities had hit a record-breaking 100,306—75,673 due to fentanyl and other opioids.
Fentanyl is particularly dangerous for at least two reasons:
- It is the most potent of opioids. One gram of fentanyl has the same effect as 50 grams of heroin or 100 grams of morphine.
- It’s frequently mixed with heroin, cocaine, or other “white powder” drugs to stretch a supply for increased profit—meaning that many people overdose on fentanyl without even knowing they’ve taken it.
And there’s no sign of fentanyl use lessening in the foreseeable future: indeed, availability of the drug is skyrocketing along with overdoses.
Fentanyl Availability Continues to Increase
Much of today’s fentanyl supply is manufactured in Mexico (usually in clandestine labs) and smuggled into the United States from the south. U.S. Customs officers, compiling data from eight south Texas border spots, reported in early 2022 that seizures of fentanyl had increased by a full 1,066 percent between October 2020 and September 2021 (for comparison, cocaine shipments increased 98 percent).
The total amount of fentanyl confiscated in those seizures was 588 pounds. Far more fentanyl must cross the border undetected: the drug now turns up regularly in New York, Seattle, and Alaska, thousands of miles from south Texas. No one anywhere can afford to assume that a “heroin” supply is fentanyl-free. Yet, sadly, many never consider the possibility—or, if addicted, are too desperate to care.
What Can Be Done?
Law enforcement can go only so far in keeping fentanyl in check. The only sure way to reduce the supply is to reduce demand—by providing treatment for those suffering from addiction, and by educating the public about the dangers.
In that mission, never discount the power of a single individual. Here are a few things you can do:
- Avoid taking any drugs yourself, except in carefully managed prescriptions. Addiction can happen to the strongest of men—even to you.
- Before accepting any prescription, ask your doctor about alternative treatments. If you do take pain-relieving opioid medication, plan in advance when and how you will stop.
- If a prescription doesn’t seem to be doing its job, consult your doctor: even one extra pill, taken on your own, can be the first step toward serious trouble.
- If you suspect you already have an addiction, get professional treatment at once. Don’t procrastinate on seeking help: the longer you wait, the harder it will be to quit. (Don’t try to tough out withdrawal on your own, either. Even if you get rid of the immediate cravings, you won’t be adequately armed against relapse temptations.)
- If you suspect that a friend or family member has an opioid addiction, recognize that trying to bully him into quitting will likely make things worse. If a frank statement of your concerns doesn’t help, consult a support group or intervention specialist for advice.
- Avoid enabling anyone else’s addiction by covering up for him or bailing him out of trouble. However, if you suspect an overdose, recognize it as a potential life-and-death situation, and call 911 at once.
- Never lose hope. People can and do find lasting recovery from fentanyl addiction.
Treatment for Fentanyl and Opioid Addiction
Fentanyl and other opioids are easy to get addicted to and painfully difficult to quit. Many people who become addicted to opioid pain pills will eventually “graduate” to the more dangerous fentanyl (or to heroin, which often has fentanyl mixed in). Most supplies of the more potent opioids come from unregulated sources, meaning that every use risks a fatal overdose.
Don’t wait until fentanyl lands you in the hospital or worse. Recovery from opiate addiction is possible, even if you’ve tried rehab before and found only temporary success. The Last Resort specializes in helping men like you reclaim their lives.
- “COVID pandemic fuelling major increase in drug use worldwide: UN report.” (UN News, 06/24/2021)
- “COVID-19 and your mental health.” (Mayo Clinic)
- “CPB Officers at South Texas Ports of Entry Post Significant Increases in Fentanyl, Cocaine Seized in FY 2021.” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 01/05/2022)
- “Drug Fact Sheet: Fentanyl.” (Drug Enforcement Administration)
- “Drug Overdose Deaths in the U.S. Top 100,000 Annually.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11/17/2021)
- “Fentanyl DrugFacts.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
- “Nearly 10 times more fentanyl pills seized in Seattle in 2021 over 2020.” (King5.com News, 12/15/2021)
- “Opioid Facts.” (United States Department of Justice)