Synthetic opioids are highly potent, unpredictable and speedy. Hence, they have overtaken prescription opioids to become the leading cause of opioid deaths. According to a report published on JAMA network, synthetic opioid related deaths in the USA stood at 46% of the total opioid related deaths as of 2016. This findings can be attributed to the fact that synthetic opioids have become readily available and cheap for traffickers. Sadly, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are so lethal that police have found a number of addicts dead while injecting the drug.
Why the Synthetic Opioid Menace is Hard to Control
Lindsay LaSalle, a nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance staff attorney noted that, the increased consumption of fentanyl is attributed to its strength. It can be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, oxycodone and heroin. Therefore, it offers a powerful high that is desperately sort after by hard drug addicts. LaSalle added that synthetic opioids are easy to mass produce because they are made in labs. Moreover, as addicts seek intense highs, manufacturers will try to outdo each other by increasing synthetic opioid potency. This will result to increased risk of overdose and subsequently, more deaths.
As access to legal opioids becomes expensive and harder to obtain, addicts are embracing drugs laced with fentanyl or carfentanil to boost potency. Carfentanil is a powerful fentanyl derivative that is used to sedate elephants. To reduce suspicion, synthetic opioids are laced to other drugs and sold to unsuspecting buyers. This explains the increased fentanyl and similar synthetic opioid daily deaths. The main reason for the increased availability of fentanyl is its profitability. A kg of fentanyl can fetch 2.5 to 20 million dollars when spiked in other drugs.
To curb the synthetic opioid menace, government drug agencies should raise awareness among clinicians and the public about the drug’s toxicity and unpredictability. Also, the availability of naloxone; an opioid reversal agent, should be increased.