Here are the best solutions for fatal overdoses
President Joe Biden will meet with Mexican officials on Monday The debate over how to stop illegal drugs from crossing the southern border is fueling a new wave of the deadly fentanyl crisis in the United States.
CONTEXT: there were According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,622 people died of drug overdoses in 2021, and two-thirds of those deaths were from the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, most of the illegal fentanyl is mass-produced in “secret factories” in Mexico with chemicals sourced in China.
Fentanyl is highly addictive, 50 times more potent than heroin, and an amount small enough to sit on the tip of a pencil can be fatal.
Health researchers and overdose prevention experts say the best ways to curb fentanyl addiction and overdose deaths in the United States are:
More drugs are needed to treat opioid addiction
People who use opioids need different “exit points” and “exit ramps” to get off the drug, said Susan Sherman, a professor of public health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. in Maryland.
Whether the illegal fentanyl is coming from Mexico or China is the question Here with substance use, with a lack of evidence-based treatment for substance abuse at scale,” Sherman said.
According to Joseph Friedman, an addiction researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, only a small percentage of people addicted to opioids — about 10% — take medication to treat it.
“So there’s a huge unmet need, and that’s an undeniable point of failure in our drug policy,” he said.
Inequalities in access to health care mean many people have less access to life-saving drugs than more widely available publicly funded treatment programs for other epidemics, such as HIV, he said.
Friedman said the government and the health care system should work to make buprenorphine, which has “always been prescribed to middle- and upper-class whites,” more accessible and affordable. Unlike other treatments that must be done daily in a clinic, buprenorphine is the first-line treatment for opioid addiction that can be prescribed by family doctors and day-to-day pharmacies, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Accidental use of fentanyl is not difficult.
Illegal narcotic pills that contain fentanyl often look like prescription pain relievers. Many non-opioid drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, may contain fentanyl, which people who use may not be aware of.
Recent studies have revealed racial disparities in synthetic opioid-related deaths, with black deaths more than tripling between 2010 and 2019, compared to a 58% increase for non-Hispanic whites.
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Additional tests are needed to test for fentanyl
All over the country, people suffering from opioid addiction who use illegal drugs rely on fentanyl test strips to see if the substance they are about to take contains fentanyl.
Imagine you go to a bar and order a drink, but you don’t know if they mixed your cocktail with one tenth of a glass of alcohol or ten glasses of alcohol, and the only way to find out is to start drinking and see how you feel. feeling,” Friedman said.
The strips use the same technology as workplace drug tests, are inexpensive and prevent overdoses because the fentanyl they detect is so strong.
“All of these things are preventable, so drug testing is really a very sensible way to reduce the harm that comes from the toxic drug market,” Friedman said.
But paper test strips, which are considered drug paraphernalia, are illegal under almost every state’s illegal drug laws.
“Drug laws make people who use illegal drugs afraid to seek help because they are seen as ‘criminals,'” said Alex Kral, an epidemiologist and drug policy expert at the nonprofit Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina.
In addition to test strips, a small number of US harm reduction programs have machines called Fourier transform infrared spectrometers that can test drugs and determine each substance in it and its concentration.
If more places in the United States have access to the machines, Kral said, they could serve as a surveillance system to alert the community when dangerous substances are drugged.
“If you’re checking people’s medications regularly, you can get an idea of what’s available in the general drug supply in a city, county or town,” Kral said.
379 million fatal dose:In 2022, the DEA seized enough fentanyl to kill every American
What are the Overdose Prevention Centers?
Kral said vulnerable people’s lives are at risk every day because opioid addiction and overdoses are fueled by poverty, poor mental health and the availability of contaminated drugs. It’s important for people on the fringes of society to have a “trusted” place they can go to use drugs safely, he said.
Two safe consumption sites allowed in New York allow people who use the drug to be tested for fentanyl without having to worry about getting arrested. Sites operated by OnPoint NYC prevented nearly 700 overdoses last year, executive director Sam Rivera told USA TODAY.
The sites sanctioned in New York were the first of their kind in the United States, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
“Imagine we had 700 overdose preventions in just over a year,” Rivera said. “What if we have 5 sites, 10 sites? It’s 7000, right? »
Contributors: Kevin Johnson, Ken Altaker
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