What’s So Dangerous About Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that has become increasingly prevalent in the United States in recent years. It is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, and can be extremely dangerous when taken in excessive amounts. In Alabama, like in many other states, fentanyl has become a significant public health concern.
By examining the prevalence of fentanyl in Alabama and some of the factors driving its rise, treatment centers can equip themselves to help clients in maintaining long-term wholeness and sobriety.
What Do the Statistics Say About Fentanyl in Alabama?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alabama has seen a significant increase in fentanyl overdose deaths in recent years. In 2015, there were 82 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in the state. By 2019, that number had increased to 341. Additionally, the rate of fentanyl-involved deaths in Alabama increased from 1.7 per 100,000 people in 2015 to 8.1 per 100,000 people in 2019. These numbers suggest that fentanyl is becoming an increasingly significant factor in drug overdoses in Alabama.
One of the factors driving the rise of fentanyl in Alabama is its availability. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl is increasingly being produced and distributed by drug trafficking organizations. These organizations are able to produce fentanyl cheaply and in large quantities, making it more readily available on the streets. Additionally, because fentanyl is so potent, traffickers can make more money by cutting other drugs with it to increase their potency.
What Role Do Opioid Prescriptions Play in the Epidemic?
Another factor contributing to the rise of fentanyl in Alabama is the state’s ongoing opioid epidemic. Alabama, like many other states, has seen a significant increase in opioid prescriptions over the past few decades. But in comparison, Alabama is one of two states with the highest opioid prescription rates. According to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health, there were 5.8 million opioid prescriptions written in the state in 2017, which equates to 1.2 prescriptions for every man, woman, and child in the state. This over-prescription of opioids has led to a significant number of people becoming addicted to these drugs, and many of these individuals are now turning to fentanyl as a cheaper and more readily available alternative.
In response to the rise of fentanyl in Alabama, state and local officials have taken a number of steps to try and address the issue. In 2018, Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill into law that increased penalties for fentanyl trafficking and allowed law enforcement to charge individuals who distribute fentanyl with murder if their drugs lead to a fatal overdose. Additionally, the Alabama Department of Public Health has launched a number of initiatives aimed at reducing opioid prescriptions and increasing access to addiction treatment services.
A State-Wide Health Concern with Overdose Deaths
As shown here, fentanyl has become a significant public health concern in Alabama. This is evident in the overdose deaths involving the drug on the rise in recent years. Factors contributing to the rise of fentanyl in the state include its increasing availability due to drug trafficking organizations. While state and local officials have taken steps to address the issue, there are further steps to combat the growing problem of fentanyl in Alabama and across the United States.
According to the latest data available, from the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Opioid Data Dashboard, fentanyl was a part of 439 overdose deaths in the state in 2020. That represents a slight decrease from the previous year, but it is still a significant number of fatalities. Additionally, the dashboard shows that there were 3,567 emergency department visits related to opioids in the state in 2020, suggesting that the opioid epidemic continues to be a major public health issue in Alabama.
What Actions Can Address the Fentanyl Problem?
In February 2021, a major drug bust in Birmingham, Alabama, made national headlines. According to the DEA, the bust resulted in the seizure of enough fentanyl to kill 1.5 million people. This bust serves as a reminder that fentanyl continues to be a major problem in Alabama. Moreover, that law enforcement officials need to remain vigilant in their efforts to combat it.
Another suggested action point is to improving prescription drug monitoring. Alabama has implemented a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) to help healthcare providers identify patients who may be at risk for addiction or overdose. The PDMP tracks patients’ prescription drug histories and helps providers identify potential problems with overprescribing or drug diversion.
Furthermore, increasing public awareness can help the problem on a broader scale. For example, the state has launched several public awareness campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of opioids and fentanyl in particular. These campaigns include public service announcements, billboards, and other media efforts.
It’s true that these initiatives have made progress in addressing the problem of fentanyl in Alabama. But the state still faces significant challenges in combating the epidemic. Therefore, the state needs ongoing efforts to continue to first expand access to treatment. After that, it can turn to reducing overdose deaths, and preventing the spread of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs.
How Are Treatment Options for Fentanyl Addiction?
The treatment of fentanyl addiction typically involves a comprehensive approach. This means that it addresses both the physical dependence and the psychological aspects of addiction. Here are two treatment options for fentanyl addiction:
Medical Detoxification: Fentanyl withdrawal can be challenging and uncomfortable. Therefore, professionals recommended undergoing medical detoxification under the supervision of healthcare professionals. During medical detox, the individual’s dose of fentanyl is gradually reduced while managing withdrawal symptoms. The care facility can also then provide the necessary support and care.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): MAT involves the use of medications to help come off addictive substances. This treatment can reduce cravings, alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and block the effects of opioids like fentanyl. Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are commonly used medications in MAT programs. These medications are typically combined with counseling and behavioral therapies to support recovery.
To learn more or begin your recovery journey, get in touch with a specialist at Impact Recovery today.