The 70 percent increase in fentanyl deaths is not a whole story - MyNorthwest.com

(AP)

Deaths related to fentanyl overdoses have increased by almost 70% over last year, reported by the Washington State Health Department (WSDOH). But that number does not provide the full scope of the drug problem of the state.

CORRELATED: Fake opioid pills that invade the illicit market

So why is this happening? To understand the problem, a context is needed.

Caleb Banta-Green, the principal researcher of the UW & # 39; s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, pointed out that while the rate of deaths from overdose of fentanyl increased, the mortality rate from overall opioid overdose in the state of Washington has remained stable in the last decade, poised around 700 in the year.

Basically, what is happening is not an increase in overdoses, as an increase in the way people are overdosed.

Banta-Green described how years ago "we found an increase in prescription opioids." Then that started to fall, we saw that the heroine took its place, the heroine had leveled a little 39, and Fentanyl was taking its place as another illicit opioid. "

Although opiate prescriptions decrease, the demand and the dependency rate remain. What follows is that people dependent on painkillers usually graduate in cheaper and more available options such as heroin. Enter fentanyl, an even cheaper and more dangerous option masked by painkiller.

"People often try to use pills instead of heroin because they are considered safer," Banta-Green explained. "Historically, this could also be true, but now you're getting what looks like an oxycodone 30 tablet, and there's no oxycodone in it – it's fentanyl of unknown quantity and purity."

A WSDOH press release indicated that "in the first half of 2018, there were 81 deaths related to the fentanyl, compared to 48 deaths recorded in the same period last year".

Fentanyl is currently found in counterfeit pills made to resemble prescription opiates like oxycodone. The risk stems from the fact that fentanyl is anywhere from 30 to 50 times more potent than pure heroin and "a dose the size of some grains of salt can be fatal for a medium-sized person".

The reasoning for retailers and illicit importers is simple: profit.

"It is far more efficient to ship to fentanyl than to ship in heroin.Fentanyl is 30 times more potent than heroin – which means getting the same number of people up, you just have to ship in a thirtieth of the amount," he said Banta-Green.

This has seen the East Coast hit particularly hard, even more than Washington.

"Washington is actually hit pretty well [by fentanyl overdoses] compared to the rest of the country – New York City saw an overall increase in mortality rates by overdoses of 50 percent that is driven entirely by fentanyl, "said Banta-Green.

All that is, there are steps taken by the state to fight the epidemic. The Department of Health recovery assistance line is designed as an outlet for all those suffering from addiction, obtaining same-day access to low-barrier drugs as on the same day buprenorphine this can help wean a heroin addict completely.

"Opioid dependence is a treatable medical condition," emphasized Banta-Green. "The most evidence-based interventions are treatment drugs, those treatment drugs support people in their recovery and reduce their chance of death by overdose by 50 percent."

You can reach the confidential status recovery line at 1-866-789-1511. The WSDOH also advises users to carry naloxone to protect themselves from overdose – you can find out where the naloxone is transported near you here.

CORRELATED: Fentanyl deaths in Alaska quadrupled in 2017

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