DEA declared National Fentanyl Awareness Day; now is ‘the most dangerous time in history to use drugs,’ ARC executive says photo

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

In response to increase in overdose deaths caused by fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration declared Tuesday, May 10 National Fentanyl Awareness Day. The goal is saving lives by increasing awareness of, and decreasing the demand for, the powerful drug.

“The advent of fentanyl’s integration into street-level use has dramatically changed the landscape of addiction, making this the most dangerous time in history to use drugs,” Pat Fogarty, Addiction Recovery Care senior vice president of operations, said in a news release. “Nearly all illicit drugs are potentially contaminated with fentanyl, making any kind of drug use potentially deadly.”

Fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Drug traffickers often mix it with other illicit drugs to drive addiction and create repeat customers.

“Many people who are overdosing and dying don’t even know that they are taking fentanyl,” says a DEA news release. 
Nationally, the news release says nearly 107,000 people died from a drug-overdose death in the 12-month period ending November 2021. Synthetic opioids, including fentanyls, are involved in 66% of all overdose deaths.
Kentucky recorded 1,964 overdose deaths in 2020, the highest number recorded to date and a 49% increase from the year before, according to the state’s latest annual report.
Fentanyl-related overdose deaths are also on the rise among teens. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that between 2019 and 2020, overdose deaths increased by 94.03% among teens aged 14-18, increasing from 492 overdose deaths in 2019 to 954 in 2020. From 2020 to 2021, they increased by 20.05%, increasing to 1,146 overdose deaths. In 2021, fentanyls were identified in 77.14% of adolescent overdose deaths.
The researchers conclude that “increasing adolescent overdose deaths, in the context of increasing availability of illicit fentanyls, highlight the need for accurate harm-reduction education for adolescents and greater access to naloxone and services for mental health and substance use behaviors.”
The ARC news release says overdose deaths among teens “are projected to more than double in two years.”
In 2020, the state recorded 127 overdose deaths among Kentuckians between the ages of 15 and 24.

“Fentanyl overdose deaths are not only the result of individuals using a contaminated supply, but many have also adopted fentanyl as their drug of choice,” added Fogarty. “For those who are struggling, treatment is available at Addiction Recovery Care, and recovery is possible.”

People who are struggling with drug abuse or who are concerned about a family member’s substance use can also search for treatment providers at The KY Help Call Center (1-833-859-4357) also provides information on treatment options an open slots among treatment providers. The Kentucky State Police has also launched the Angel Initiative, which allows anyone with a substance-use disorder seeking treatment to visit a KSP post where they are directed to treatment.

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