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Before we get to the matter at hand, we’d like to offer up some good news and some bad news about heroin addiction.
Good news – Rates of heroin addiction aren’t rising as rapidly as some people believe. According to recent surveys, they remain largely the same. In fact, some age groups have actually experienced a slight decrease in recent years.
Bad news – This does not affect the current heroin epidemic in any way whatsoever.
Confused? It helps to understand what people actually mean when they reference the drug crisis. When someone mentions an opioid epidemic or heroin epidemic, we may infer this to mean an epidemic of addiction; however, what our nation currently struggles with is more specifically an overdose epidemic.
Drug overdose currently ranks as the single greatest cause of accidental death in the United States, and many of these overdoses involve heroin.
When did heroin become so deadly? It was always fatal, but the sudden rise in overdose deaths makes a lot more sense when you consider that most of today’s heroin is not truly heroin at all. Many dealers now lace their products with deadly synthetic opioids. These opioids, fentanyl and carfentanil, comprise the bulk of the current problem.
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Dangers of Fentanyl and Carfentanil
Fentanyl and carfentanil are closely related, although one is far more potent than the other. To put things into perspective, heroin wields a potency usually double or triple that of morphine. Fentanyl, on the other hand, is about 50-100 times as potent as morphine, while carfentanil is about 100 times as potent as fentanyl.
Neither of these potent drugs was ever intended for recreational use. Doctors generally use the opioid pain medication fentanyl as an anesthetic, or to treat chronic pain patients – many of whom also suffer from prescription drug addiction. Carfentanil is simply an elephant tranquilizer.
Both are extremely lethal. A small dose of fentanyl—even a fraction the size of a penny—can prove fatal to a human being. Meanwhile, only 10 milligrams of carfentanil is enough to kill an African elephant weighing 15,000 pounds.
When these drugs first started appearing in heroin, the problem seemed relatively confined. Initially, many associated the heroin epidemic with only a few areas, such as Florida and New England. Certain states such as New Hampshire experienced the worst of it. Soon, stories of fentanyl-related overdose became increasingly popular as they moved westward to Ohio. Arriving at the Midwest, we saw overdose rates mounting in states such as Minnesota. Today, few regions—if any—remain unaffected.
As the heroin epidemic completes its westward expansion, the numbers have nowhere to go but up. The only way to escape the dangers of heroin cut with fentanyl or carfentanil is to escape to dangers of heroin altogether.
It Only Takes One Bad Dose
Now that fentanyl and carfentanil are so widespread, even first-time users find themselves at increased risk of overdose.
Chronic users are gambling with their lives on an even more frequent basis. We hear stories daily about someone who tries to stop using, suffers a relapse, and overdoses almost immediately. Despite knowing the dangers of today’s heroin, many people simply believe that it will never happen to them.
Unfortunately, overdose does not come with a warning. Once someone decides to use, there are no precautions they can take.
If you or someone you love struggles with heroin addiction, it is imperative that you seek help immediately. Through intensive addiction treatment with a focus on long-term relapse prevention, you can escape the overdose epidemic. There is a rich and rewarding life ahead for those who make the choice today not to become one of the statistics.
Fentanyl and carfentanil are synonymous with death. We urge you to choose life.