Home Expert: Young people need to be educated on the dangers of fentanyl

Expert: Young people need to be educated on the dangers of fentanyl

(© JJAVA – stock.adobe.com)

Opioids help people manage chronic pain – and that’s a good thing. So, what went wrong?

“In the mid-1990s, more and more practitioners were using opioids as a first-line agent to reduce pain,” said Dr. Paul Christo, associate professor at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. “And that, unfortunately, led to an increase in the use of opioids for chronic pain and probably increased the use for those who really didn’t need them.”

Christo has been on the frontlines battling the opioid crisis. In a recent interview, his message to lawmakers was clear.

“We have to make sure that we cut down on those that are manufacturing fentanyl illegally in the United States and also selling it illegally. And then,” he said, “we need to make sure that we educate young adults on the dangers of the use of fentanyl. This is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It can lead to death very quickly by ingesting just a little bit of it.”

There’s no question that the pandemic caused a troubling upward trend in addiction disorders, and a recent study predicts an additional 1.2 million drug overdose deaths in the next decade, with people in the Black community bearing the brunt of the opioid epidemic.

“COVID-19 impacted the drug supply chain by closing borders on some regions, and it led to the higher death rate,” Christo said.

The opioid epidemic today progressed in three phases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first involves deaths caused by prescription opioids, the second, an increase in heroin use, and the third, a surge in the use of synthetic opioids or fentanyl

Experts say the U.S. is right in the middle of the third phase of the epidemic due to the increasing availability of fentanyl and increasing rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids.

According to a recent study, there were 632,331 drug overdoses between 1999 and 2016. Most of these deaths (78.2 percent) were drug overdoses with known drug classification. Moreover, 21.8 percent were unclassified drug overdoses. A further investigation revealed that for unclassified drug overdoses, 71.8 percent involved opioids, translating to 99,160 additional opioid-related deaths.

There were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, according to an estimate from the CDC. Based on findings from the new study, over half of those deaths – about 47,000 – are suspected of having involved opioids.

Christo is the host of a syndicated SIRIUS XM radio talk show on overcoming pain called Aches and Gains®. For more information about Christo, visit www.paulchristomd.com.



Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.