The Christian Life & Public Affairs (CLPA) Special Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is focusing on the opioid epidemic this year.
I was shocked to discover that the greatest rise in death in recent years is with a synthetic opioid analgesic called fentanyl.
According the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is “similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.” Fentanyl is both a prescription medication as well as a black-market drug produced in clandestine labs.
This drug can have the following street names: Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT and Tango & Cash. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that it is sold illegally “as a powder; spiked on blotter paper; mixed with or substituted for heroin; or as tablets that mimic other less potent opioids.”
In an article titled, “Why fentanyl is deadlier than heroin, in a single photo,” author Allison Bond noted, “Drug users generally don’t know when their heroin is laced fentanyl, so when they inject their usual quantity of heroin, they inadvertently take a deadly dose of the substance. In addition, while dealers try to include fentanyl to improve potency, their measuring equipment usually isn’t fine-tuned enough to ensure they stay below the levels that could cause users to overdose. Plus, the fentanyl sold on the street is almost always made in a clandestine lab; “[I]t is less pure that the pharmaceutical version and thus its effect on the body can be more unpredictable.”
The same article quoted Tim Pifer, the director of the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory, as saying because heroin and fentanyl look identical, and with drugs purchased on the street, “you don’t know what you’re taking. You’re injecting yourself with a loaded gun.”
Citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on overdose death rates from 1999 to 2017 in the United States, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that “among the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2017, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (other synthetic narcotics) with more than 28,400 overdose deaths.”
North Carolina has experienced a similar dramatic rise in death from synthetic opioid drugs (mainly fentanyl).
Moreover, even an extremely small dose of fentanyl can be fatal. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a lethal dose of fentanyl for most people is about 2 milligrams. That’s the size of just a few grains of salt.
The most compelling reason for the rise of fentanyl is cost. It is much cheaper than illegally gained prescription opioids as well as naturally produced opioids. There are numerous international and national clandestine labs producing this synthetic drug.
Again, remember that awareness brings knowledge, and knowledge brings solutions.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Robert Jordan is chair of the Christian Life & Public Affairs Special Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)