Addiction to fentanyl is rising in California, putting the state in another drug crisis. According to data from 2017, the number of deaths due to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have doubled since the year before.
Let’s explore why this drug is causing this crisis in California and throughout the US.
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is an opioid drug used mainly to treat chronic pain, especially for patients who are recovering from surgery as well as cancer patients. When used as instructed, it is quite effective. But it’s typically created and sold illegally, which makes abuse very likely.
Fentanyl is also a remarkably potent medication, being 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is often combined with other illegal drugs too, such as cocaine and heroin, but users usually don’t know.
With that, they unknowingly put their lives in danger. When blended with other drugs, fentanyl is much more fatal.
What is illegal fentanyl called?
When sold on the streets, this drug goes by a few names. Here are some of them:
- Murder 8
- Tango and Cash
- China girl
What effects does fentanyl have on the body?
As with other opioids, fentanyl relieves pain, but it also generates relaxing and euphoric feelings. Alongside these are side effects such as nausea, confusion, dizziness, vomiting, and a condition known as respiratory depression. In other words, the drug can slow down users’ rates of breathing.
Because the drug is so powerful, users are at a higher risk of overdose, especially when fentanyl is blended with another drug.
What happens when users overdose on fentanyl?
The biggest danger is respiratory failure. If users take enough of the drug to slow down their breathing significantly, they could die from it. More so if they don’t seek medical help right away.
Alongside this, there are other signs of overdose as well. These include:
- Weak muscles
- Loss of consciousness
- Low blood pressure
- Feeling dizzy and confused
- Slow heartbeat
- Bluish lips and nails
It’s important for users who have these symptoms to call 911 immediately.
Why are there lots of deaths in California involving fentanyl?
Over the past years, fentanyl-related deaths in California have been constantly on the rise. Although the number of deaths is still smaller compared to other states, the constant increase is a worrying trend. In time, California’s fentanyl-related deaths may catch up to other East Coast states.
Here are a few reasons for this trend.
- Strength of fentanyl: Because this drug is really strong, users have a higher chance of overdose. Moreover, fentanyl is frequently mixed with other illegal drugs, making it even more dangerous. In fact, a lot of opioid-related deaths are because of the combinations of other substances.
- Availability: Illegal drug makers can easily cook up fentanyl in small basement labs. Other illegal drugs, like heroin, require more elaborate labs. Thus, because it’s easier to make, fentanyl is more readily available.
- Low cost: Also because of how easy it is to create fentanyl, the drug is a lot cheaper than other illicit opioids.
This combination of factors has led to more widespread use, more cases of addiction, and consequently, more deaths due to overdose.
What cities in California have lots of illegal fentanyl going around?
In 2017, authorities have seized illegal fentanyl nine times in California alone. Some of the cities affected include:
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- San Clemente
- Pine Valley
- Chula Vista
- San Diego
Specifically, in June of that year, San Diego had two notable fentanyl seizures. In one operation, authorities confiscated as much as 14 million doses. The other seizure happened at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Authorities found a large amount of illegal fentanyl inside a vehicle coming from Mexico.
Why do drug manufacturers mix fentanyl with other illicit drugs?
Fentanyl has really potent and fast-acting effects, which other drugs do not have. Thus, illegal drug makers often combine fentanyl with more commonly-known drugs like Molly, cocaine, and heroin to boost their effects. Users like the more intense high too.
Also, fentanyl is less expensive than other substances. So, drug makers can make stronger drugs while reducing their costs. Users also like this because they can get cheap yet potent drugs.
But often, users don’t know that the drugs they take are laced with fentanyl. As they keep on taking those drugs, fentanyl accumulates in their bodies. They don’t have a clue that they’re already at high risk of overdosing.
What kind of help is available for those addicted to fentanyl in California?
Many communities across California are fighting the addiction outbreak through prevention and treatment procedures. Some of these methods include:
- Greater accessibility to Naloxone, a life-saving medication. It reverses the effects of an overdose of fentanyl and other opioids. When given to overdose victims, Naloxone allows them to breathe normally again. But these effects don’t last long, so they still need to be rushed to the hospital for further treatment.
- Fentanyl test strips can be used to discover if fentanyl is present in users’ bodies. This is quite useful in users who have taken other illicit drugs but are suffering from fentanyl abuse symptoms.
- More access to rehab and addiction recovery options.
- Education campaigns making people aware of the effects of fentanyl and the dangers of overdose.
What happens during rehab for fentanyl addiction?
During rehab, users often undergo detox. This would remove all traces of the drug from their bodies while managing withdrawal symptoms. They would also be guided throughout the process so they don’t relapse.
Users would also be given psychological therapies. These include things like cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational therapies, and one-on-one counseling. Rehab professionals may even involve users’ families. They would educate family members on how to support their recovering loved ones during the process.
Many recovery programs also include aftercare. This would ensure that recovering users stay drug-free even after they leave the rehab centers. That way, they will lead better, healthier lives for a long time.