August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day and the need for awareness of death from overdose has never been more important. As the number of both overdoses and death from drug overdoses continue to soar, so too is the need for increased information about the dangers of taking illicit drugs and access to treatment.
International Overdose Awareness Day aims to not only be a day set aside to remember and honor those loved ones lost to a drug overdose, but it also has one simple message to convey and that is; the tragedy of overdose is preventable and more must be done to save lives.
If you’ve lost a loved one to overdose, you know only too well the pain, regret, and suffering it brings. Maybe your loved one was addicted to drugs or maybe it was their first-time ‘experimenting’. Whatever the case, it’s vital to raise awareness of just how dangerous the use of legal and illicit drugs can be today. With the increase in fentanyl being added to all types of drugs, the rate of overdose death is predicted to continue to climb.
Overdose is defined as taking too much of a substance, either intentionally or accidentally, which results in harmful effects to the body with the worst being death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1999 there have been nearly 841,000 lives lost to overdose. What’s more, in 2019, 70% of overdose deaths were from opioids. The rate of overdose deaths involving opioids has increased by more than six times since 1999. In 2019, close to 50,000 people died from opioid overdoses, and 73% of these involved synthetic opioids like deadly fentanyl.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a dependence on opioids, whether illicit or prescription, the time to get help is now. Futures Recovery Healthcare utilizes proven, evidence-based programming to help those with substance use disorders, including opioid addiction, as well as alcohol use disorders and mental health problems.
Fentanyl and Drug Overdose Deaths
As mentioned, many of the overdose deaths and overdoses from drugs can be traced to deadly fentanyl. This powerful synthetic opioid is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a pain reliever and can only be obtained legally with a prescription. Fentanyl is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. Today, fentanyl is being added to various drugs such as heroin, synthetic opioid pills, cocaine, marijuana, and more. And for many unsuspecting users, it will kill them.
According to the CDC, law enforcement groups across the nation report a sharp rise in fentanyl-laced drugs. The states who reported the highest increase in fentanyl-laced drugs also report the most significant increases in overdose deaths from this synthetic opioid. And, as the CDC notes, these overdoses are from illicitly-made fentanyl which is then mixed into heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, and counterfeit pills. Most of the time, fentanyl is mixed into these drugs and the users are completely unaware. Sometimes until it’s too late.
Here are some facts about fentanyl found in drugs from the CDC:
- Fentanyl found in drugs more than doubled from 2014 to 2015 with 5,343 incidents in 2014 to 13,882 in 2015.
- Illicit fentanyl rates were highest in Ohio, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts
- Fentanyl increases have been highest east of the Mississippi.
It’s vital to understand that heroin and opioid users aren’t the only ones at risk for unknowingly consuming fentanyl. Fentanyl is being found in more and more drugs across the nation. As mentioned, this includes cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana. Often, a person who is using these drugs has never used an opioid before and their risk for overdose and death is higher than those who have used opioids in the past. Awareness about deadly fentanyl being mixed with other drugs is vital in order to help prevent more senseless deaths.
In addition to fentanyl, there is also a concern about the increase in fentanyl analogs being added to other substances. Fentanyl analogs are drugs that have a similar chemical structure to fentanyl and act in much the same way in the body. According to the CDC, some states have seen concerning increases in overdose deaths from fentanyl analogs.
Here are some more statistics to shed some light on just how serious the issue is:
- Based on a 10-state study, 57% of individuals who died from a drug overdose tested positive for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs and cocaine, methamphetamines, or heroin.
- In the same 10-state study, more than half of the overdose deaths from opioids tested positive for fentanyl or fentanyl analogs
It’s vital that anyone who uses drugs or knows someone who does knows this information about the deadly drug trend and shares it with others. Spreading awareness is one way to help prevent more deaths from overdose.
Cocaine and Methamphetamine Overdoses on the Rise
While the risk of overdose on opioids remains of great concern, it’s vital to not overlook the overdose deaths and risks from other drugs. The use of these drugs as well as overdose rates continues to grow as well. Some of these overdoses are from the mix of fentanyl but not all. Being aware of the increasing potency of numerous drugs as well as the dangers is of paramount importance in order to help these alarming rates decrease.
According to the CDC, one in five overdose deaths in 2017 can be attributed to cocaine. And as cocaine use increases, the need for awareness does too. In 2016, nearly 5 million Americans reported using cocaine—that’s nearly 2% of the entire U.S. population.
While the use of cocaine was on the decline from 2006 to 2012, this has changed. In 2017, drug overdoses involving cocaine increased by 34%. Nearly 34,000 Americans died that year from a cocaine overdose. The group most hit by these overdoses and overdose deaths are the non-Hispanic blacks.
Psychostimulant overdose deaths have also grown. In 2017, these rates of overdose involving psychostimulants such as meth and ecstasy grew by 37%. In addition to meth and ecstasy, prescription drugs used for ADHD and depression were also included in this group.
In fact, in 2016 about 6 million Americans misused prescription stimulants. The rate of overdose and overdose death involving these drugs was highest amongst non-Hispanic whites.
And, despite the United States government’s $35 billion dollar budget for drug control in 2020, drug use and overdose deaths continue to climb.
COVID-19 and Increase in Overdose Deaths
Overdose rates and deaths from overdose continue to climb every year. In addition to this trend, COVID-19 only made drug use and overdose rates increase more. According to information reported by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation whose aim is to promote a high-performing health care system for all, overdose deaths spiked after the start of the pandemic with fentanyl-laced drugs leading the surge. In fact, overdose death rates increased in nearly every state in the U.S. during the first eight months of 2020.
If you or someone you care about is using drugs or abusing alcohol, Futures can help. Many of our caring, compassionate staff understand firsthand the struggles of addiction. Our team is dedicated to helping all those who want to recover from substance abuse to do so.
As so many in our nation are overdosing and dying from it, it’s vital to know the signs of a drug overdose and what to do.
Signs of a Drug Overdose
While the signs of an overdose vary from one person to the next based on several factors, some signs are the same and important to look for when it comes to preventing overdose deaths.
These factors include what drug or drugs are being used, the amount taken, the person’s health history, and history of drug use. Here are some of the warning signs of a drug overdose:
- Loss of consciousness
- Difficulty breathing
- Blue lips or fingers
- Chest pain
- Limp arms and legs
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Faint heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Gurgling sounds (indicating a blocked airway)
- High body temperature
- Difficulty walking
- Enlarged pupils or very small pupils
- Violence or aggression
- Hallucinations or delusions
If you see any of these signs in someone it’s vital to call 911 for help immediately. Keep in mind the Good Samaritan Law exists in many states and will protect you and the victim from drug possession charges when you seek emergency help.
In addition, if you or someone you know uses drugs, it’s a good idea to carry naloxone. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can reverse overdose when used in time. One piece of the overdose prevention initiatives is to make naloxone available without a prescription. In some states, you can obtain naloxone at a local pharmacy without a prescription. Additionally, there are community and advocacy groups, local health departments that distribute it free of charge.
If you want to help spread awareness about drug overdose and deaths you can support International Overdose Awareness Day in several ways. From holding an event in your community to wearing a purple wristband or posting a tribute to someone lost to a drug overdose, there are ways you can get involved and spread awareness.
If you or someone you love is living with drug addiction, Futures is here for you. Our admissions team will help you find the program best-suited to meet your or your loved ones’ needs. Recovery is possible and a life free from drugs can be yours. Take the first brave step and reach out for help. Contact Futures today at 866-804-2098.
Remember, as the International Overdose Awareness Day says, the tragedy of overdose is preventable and more needs to be done to save lives. Join the solution—get help, spread awareness, break the stigma, and help save lives!