How Fentanyl Poisoning Became a National Crisis: Johns Hopkins Pain Physician Explains

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Every day in the United States, news detailing horrific fentanyl-related deaths make headlines as the nation grapples with a drug crisis like no other. How did we get here?

Medical professionals have begun to use opioids to treat chronic pain more frequently in the 1990s, leading to an increase in opioid use among people who do not need them, according to Johns Hopkins University assistant professor and host of the Diseases and Benefits podcast, Dr. H. Paul Christo, a 20-year drug addict physician .

“As a pain specialist, we often treat … those who take opioids who develop addiction disease,” he said. “As part of that, we … end up treating addicted patients, for example referring them to specialists in addiction medicine … trying to alleviate their pain. A lot of what we’re seeing right now with opioid overdose is also related to the pain crisis. You know, there’s an epidemic of chronic pain in the United States that affects about a third of the population.”

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Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is lethal in small doses and is more common in recreational drugs, although some illegal drug manufacturers and cartels compressed fentanyl into tablets made to look like prescription painkillers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a record 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses and poisoning last year, caused by poisoning with synthetic opioids or fentanyl.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a record 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses and poisoning last year, caused by poisoning with synthetic opioids or fentanyl.
(Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA))

“It is very important that the public … especially families, friends, parents and especially young people aged 13 to 25 are aware of the dangers of personal use of synthetic fentanyl,” says the doctor. This was announced by Paul Christo, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and host of the Diseases and Benefits podcast. “We’re not really talking about the pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl that we use for patients with chronic pain. I think that’s an important difference.”

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Illicit fentanyl obtained on the streets is “lethal because it is very potent,” he explained. The average person “doesn’t have to swallow very much of it for it to lead to breathing problems and then death.” The public should be aware that fentanyl can be found in a variety of drugs, from heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to cannabis, Cristo explained. Fentanyl test strips can help eliminate the menace of fentanyl in these drugs. Also, having narcan, a drug used to treat drug overdoses, can save those who take too much fentanyl.

A record 107,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses and poisoning caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An analysis of CDC data released in December 2021 by fentanyl awareness organization Families Against Fentanyl found that illegal fentanyl poisoning was number one in the world. 1st cause of death for American adults aged 18 to 45 in the past year.

Fentanyl is lethal in small doses and is more common in recreational drugs, although some illegal drug manufacturers and cartels have crammed fentanyl into pills that look like prescription painkillers.

Fentanyl is lethal in small doses and is more common in recreational drugs, although some illegal drug manufacturers and cartels have crammed fentanyl into pills that look like prescription painkillers.
(Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA))

The Stanford-Lancet Commission’s February study of the North American opioid crisis predicts that approximately 1.2 million drug overdose deaths in United States over the next 10 years, with the crisis hitting the black population the most.

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Seizures of the drug at the southern border have increased dramatically in recent years. Customs and Border Protection seized 10,586 pounds of drugs in fiscal 2021. This is more than the £4,558 seized in FY20 and the £2,633 seized in FY2019.

While it remains unclear how much fentanyl is entering the US, as this number only refers to drug seizures, the number of drug-related deaths is on the rise. Drug Enforcement Administration warned earlier this year of a “nationwide spike” in fentanyl-related overdoses.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
(Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA))

“There appears to be a lot of fentanyl being trafficked across the United States from Mexico. It can be produced inexpensively, and it is extremely dangerous in terms of taking small doses, which can lead to death quite easily. So I think we start to mobilize the response in terms of what we can do to reduce effectiveness,” Christo said, adding that increased surveillance at the border of drugs entering the country to make sure they do not contain fentanyl , can prevent domestic distribution of the opioid. United States.

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For those who are addicted should seek treatment. According to Christo, some cities have “substance abuse and use-related public health services” that are free for eligible individuals. The American Psychological Association and Substance Abuse Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) websites have free resources for those interested in finding treatment options in their fields.

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse and addiction, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Adam Shaw of Fox News contributed to this report.