Reports abound about the ever-increasing drug problem in the United States. Orange County, California, is no exception. The county has been reporting increasing cases of drug use and subsequent deaths due to overdose. A large part of the current problem has been caused by pharmaceutical companies pressuring physicians to prescribe opioid medications for pain. Those companies assured physicians that opioids were not addictive, according to a Vice News article.
However, that was far from the truth. In the time it took for that fact to become known, millions of people had already become addicted to opioid pain medication. Some received prescriptions from their doctor to control severe pain or pain following a surgery or an injury. Others purchased opioids on the street from drug dealers. Addiction to opioids happens quickly and when people could no longer rely on an additional prescription from their doctor, they turned to heroin. In some areas, heroin costs less than a pack of cigarettes. In New York City, a bag of heroin sells for about $10. A pack of cigarettes is $10.29 to $12.85, according to an article in The Washington Post.
Reasons for rise of heroin and other drugs
How did heroin become so cheap? Drug cartels, mostly in Mexico, realized that opioids were becoming difficult to obtain and did two things, they increased production of heroin and developed the underground networks to move it into the United States. Unfortunately, there were many willing buyers in Orange County and many other counties.
Soon after came fentanyl – at the time the most powerful opioid in the market. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states that fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. The drug is also cheap to manufacture. It provides an intense high, and soon dealers were mixing it with heroin and cocaine. However, the buyers had no idea as to what they were ingesting. The combination of drugs caused overdoses, which began to escalate in numbers. Fentanyl in combination with alcohol was a particularly deadly combination.
Just when a person might have thought it couldn’t get any worse, along came carfentanil. This is a large animal tranquilizer used by veterinarians. Carfentanil can be fatal for humans. One drop in a person’s eye or nasal passage can be fatal. The DEA states that carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than morphine. When administering carfentanil to large animals, veterinarians wear face shields, gloves and other bodily protection as a safety precaution.
Drug use in Orange County is increasing incrementally, reported The Orange County Register. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the spike in opioid abuse and death a national epidemic. In 2013, Orange County ranked 17th out of 58 California counties in opioid overdose deaths, according to The Register article.
Padma Gulur, M.D., a pain specialist formerly at UC Irvine Health, told The Register, “We have a community at risk. It’s so concerning.” Dr. Gulur led an alliance of health insurance companies, law enforcement and hospitals, encouraging doctors to reduce the amount of opioids they prescribe and to be aware of the signs of addiction. The group also promotes widespread access to naloxone, a life-saving antidote to opioids. Multiple doses of naloxone have been required to revive people under the influence of carfentanil.
Drug addiction can be treated
There is no single solution for preventing drug abuse. Public service announcements on radio or TV warning of the dangers and consequences of even one instance of drug use can prove to be helpful, as can drug education in schools and more involvement by parents.
Sovereign Health treats drug addiction and any underlying condition that may be contributing to the addiction, such as an anxiety disorder or depression. If you would like further information for you or a loved one, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak to a Sovereign representative. We will be happy to help you.
About the author
Veronica McNamara is a staff writer for Sovereign Health. A former nurse, she enjoys writing about the causes and treatment of addictions and behavioral health disorders. She is a proponent of further public education on the subject of mental illness, which unfortunately still bears an unwarranted stigma. For more information and other inquiries on this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.