Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is a powerful weapon in the ongoing war against the increasing numbers of opioid overdoses in the United States. Naloxone is an opioid antidote that binds to the opioid receptors in the central nervous system, blocking them from responding to opioids and endorphins. Generally, naloxone is used by emergency responders across the nation to save lives by reversing the effects of opioid overdose. However, a new Narcan-resistant drug has emerged that holds the potential to trigger a massive spike in fatal overdoses across communities and neighborhoods.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), reported in late April 2017 that acrylfentanyl, a new analogue of fentanyl, was discovered at the scenes of two deadly opioid overdoses in western Pennsylvania, which resulted in the death of the unwary victims. In both the cases, the unfortunate victims failed to respond to naloxone doses administered to them.
Although not much is known about the origins of acrylfentanyl, DEA authorities believe the drug originates from laboratories in China and is smuggled into the U.S. through the Mexican border. Even though the DEA maintains a list of controlled substances, Chinese manufacturers are known to manipulate the substance by making subtle changes to its chemical formula.
In the recent years, the DEA has been struggling to keep a check on huge numbers of designer drugs flooding American markets. “If acrylfentanyl is introduced into the population, it can have devastating effects,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge David Battiste. “You would have to reuse Narcan if you are revived from Narcan at all.” Public health officials across the U.S. are deeply concerned about those who are most likely to fall into the trap of this drug. Most of the times, heroin is often laced with fentanyl or acrylfentanyl without the users’ knowledge. What is disturbing is that even minute amounts of these phenomenally powerful substances can lead to a deadly overdose.
Acrylfentanyl is available in the market in powder form and looks similar to fentanyl, carfentanil and heroin that even an expert in narcotics would not be able to spot the difference with a naked eye. Unlike fentanyl and carfentanil, which have certain legitimate medical purposes for human beings including animals, acrylfentanyl doesn’t serve any legal purpose.
Fentanyl: One of the deadliest opioids
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain medication, 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is prescribed legally in patches and lozenges to manage chronic, cancer-related and surgical pain. Unfortunately, intravenous morphine infusion (IMF), manufactured unlawfully in clandestine laboratories, finds its way to illicit drug markets, where it is usually mixed with heroin or sold as heroin without the end-user knowing about it. Surprisingly, this is being sold as counterfeit pills.
Fentanyl is sold as a small piece of film that dissolves when placed under the tongue and, a pill which can be lodged inside the cheek. In a typical hospital environment, fentanyl can be injected. But for an individual abusing the drug in a non-clinical setting, this can prove highly risky. The difference between a therapeutic dose administered by a medical professional and a self-administered deadly dose is a minuscule one but often lethal.
The demographics of those succumbing to opioid overdose are rapidly changing. The number of fentanyl-related deaths is on the rise among non-Hispanic white men aged 25-44 years, in particular, those addicted to heroin and cocaine. Like other narcotic medications, fentanyl can seriously affect its users’ health. The common side effects of the drug include shallow breathing, stiff muscles, dizziness, nausea, high blood pressure and anxiety, among others.
Both heroin and opioids, have strikingly similar chemical structures and have a tendency to bind to the same family of receptors in the brain, temporarily hindering the brain’s response to painful stimuli. In reality, what actually happens is that the pain doesn’t go away forever. It simply doesn’t bother the user for a while. This immediate yet temporary relief accompanied by a feel-good sensation triggers a rise in pain tolerance with every consecutive dose. This heightens the need for higher and higher doses to achieve the same level of relief, leading to total drug dependence. As a consequence, drug overdose is one of the major causes of unintended causalities across the country.
Statistics reveal a shocking number of young adults addicted to this drug living in the affluent areas of big cities who were inadvertently pushed to heroin through pain relievers prescribed by their doctors. While many opioid pills are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they need to be obtained from a pharmacist on producing a valid prescription. Most patients generally get addicted to these opioid pills and soon advance to heroin use as they can’t afford them. Per milligram of opioid painkillers would cost an uninsured addict about $1, so a 60-milligram pill would set them back by $60. On the contrary, they could obtain the equivalent amount of euphoria-inducing heroin for approximately one-tenth the cost.
Sovereign Health can help
Overdosing on opioids such as fentanyl and heroin is a major public health crisis across the U.S. Heroin use is simply not limited to the shanty, low-income neighborhoods, rather, it is prevalent everywhere including the suburbs and the affluent areas causing a surge in overdosing cases in the recent years. Heroin exerts an immensely powerful effect on the pleasure circuitry of the brain, causing the brain to want more and more of the drug. Once addicted to heroin, the effects of withdrawal can be severe demanding individualized heroin withdrawal treatment.
Sovereign Health is a leading provider of behavioral health treatment services in the U.S. Our customized heroin addiction treatment programs at Sovereign Health of San Clemente are tailored to individual needs in order to treat the person holistically.
If you or your loved one is battling addiction to heroin or any other drug, get in touch with Sovereign Health to gain access to the latest and innovative treatment methods at our state-of-the-art drug rehabilitation centers spread across the U.S. You may call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the most effective treatment options at our reliable heroin addiction rehab centers.