Opioid overdoses have been an insidious and ever-expanding problem over the last two decades. Once fentanyl made its way into the market in 2013, researchers observed a drastic and distressing increase in the number of lives lost to opioids.1 And as more people seek solace in the intense high induced by opioids, overdose rates only continue to rise.
Prescription opioids and heroin were already concerning enough. But the rapid spread of fentanyl through the drug market during the last 10 years sent the number of overdoses skyrocketing. Overdose deaths involving opioids are 18 times higher today than they were in 2013.2 Unfortunately, the increase shows no signs of slowing down either.
The fentanyl-flooded drug market is claiming more lives than anyone ever anticipated. Rates of death due to drug overdose increased more than 56% between 2019 and 2020 alone. Provisional data shows a similar trend between 2020 and 2021. Ongoing studies continue to reveal the ongoing issue in alarming detail.
Even the newest research suggests that things will get worse before they get better. How does the influx of fentanyl impact the growing rates of opioid abuse and overdose?
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat severe, chronic pain caused by serious medical conditions. It is an alternative to morphine that is 50 to 100 times more powerful and typically prescribed in patch or lozenge form.
While some of the fentanyl-related overdoses are due to legitimate medication, the majority occur from illegally manufactured fentanyl. Illicit fentanyl is the primary driver of the sharp increase in overdoses during the last decade and continues flooding the drug market today.
Drug manufacturers originally mixed it with heroin to increase its euphoric effects while reducing costs. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration has noticed an increase of fentanyl in other drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine as well.3 Some people even seek out fentanyl intentionally because they’ve developed such a staggering opioid tolerance.
Regardless of how someone uses fentanyl, though, the strength and inconsistency of the illicit substance put people at a much higher risk of overdose.
Overdose Doesn’t Discriminate
The past 21 years of opioid research suggested that geography played a role in where opioid overdoses occurred. Up until the end of 2020, data showed that overdose deaths caused by opioid misuse increased more rapidly in rural areas than in urban areas. However, a new study from Northwestern University warns that this may no longer be the case.4
While people in rural areas may have struggled with higher concentrations of fentanyl-laced drugs, provisional data suggests that urban areas are seeing the same. As the gap between areas affected by opioid abuse and overdose closes, it becomes increasingly impossible to deny the need for an effective solution, and fast.
Finding Help for Fentanyl Addiction
No one sets out to develop an opioid addiction; often the problem develops unintentionally. But the stigma surrounding addiction, especially in rural areas like Idaho, makes it difficult for people to reach out for help. The only effective fight against fentanyl addiction is ensuring increased access to informed and individualized addiction care.
Expanding the availability of options like medication-assisted treatment is a crucial tool for halting the spike in overdoses. Treating people with compassion and care instead of placing every person into the same recovery-shaped box is another step in the right direction.
Emerge Recovery is dedicated to shifting the narrative of addiction recovery. Instead of the traditional treatment approach, Emerge Recovery exists to do rehab differently. Every person deserves the same access to recovery, no matter where they are in life.
At Emerge, we’re committed to making sure you feel heard and understood in your search for recovery. To learn more about our programs and the Emerge difference, schedule your no-fee Recovery Activation Call today.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Understanding the Opioid Overdose Epidemic.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Fentanyl.
3. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2021). Facts About Fentanyl.
4. Science Daily. (2022). Coming wave of opioid overdoses ‘will be worse than it’s ever been before’.