Locally and nationally, Fentanyl and Carfentanil laced opioids have dominated the news, but a lesser known and just as deadly combination of cocaine laced with fentanyl is taking the stage. As of now, just a handful of states have had incidents of tainted cocaine, but occurrences are rapidly starting to spread. States are now scrambling to notify the public about the new combination and urging users of all drugs to seek help while there is still time. Rhode Island behavioral health officials are warning treatment providers that cocaine is being laced with the powerful synthetic opioid or it’s analog carfentanil and buyers are unaware of the dangerous addition. The Providence Journal reports that officials at the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare confirmed Monday they are urging treatment providers to begin offering naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, to all clients with a history of cocaine use. Officials say fentanyl is the second most common drug detected in drug samples seized by law enforcement so far, this year. Forty-eight of the samples that detected fentanyl were heroin, 37 were cocaine. The test results were the latest in a series of reports the department received of fentanyl in the cocaine supply, which prompted the agency to notify just over a dozen providers.
In Ohio, a community is reeling after a Spirit Airlines pilot and his wife died from an overdose of Carfentanil laced cocaine. Brian and Courtney Halye, 36 and 34 years old, were found by their children on the morning of March 16. Their 13-year-old son called 911, and reported that his parents were “on the floor.” “My sisters say they are not waking up.” When asked if they were breathing he responded, “I don’t think so,” and said that they were “very cold.” The dispatcher reported that while the boy was on the phone, the cries of his sisters could be heard in the background. The couple left behind a thirteen-year-old son and two eleven-year-old daughters. Officer John Davis of the Centerville Police Department said that there is an ongoing investigation to try and determine where the drugs came from. Overdose deaths in Montgomery County Ohio have drastically increased. As of May 31, there have already been 349 deaths- the total number of deaths due to overdose in 2016. Of those deaths this year, 251 have tested positive for Fentanyl. “This stuff is everywhere. There’s not a community that’s immune to it, and it knows no demographics, and that’s probably the hardest things for anyone to wrap their head around,” said Officer Davis.
The epidemic of Fentanyl-laced drugs is not just a problem for the United States. Canada has also seen their share of overdoses and overdose deaths. Just this past weekend in Durham Ontario, there were several cocaine overdoses, with one testing positive for Fentanyl and seven others that are suspected to also include the opioid. The most recent data from Canada’s national drug testing lab shows that, as of March 2016, 21.6% of heroin and 4.8 percent of cocaine is contaminated with fentanyl. Over 2,500 Canadians died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016. Health Minister Jane Philpott has warned that the epidemic remains a “very serious public health threat,” and is urging all “provincial and territorial governments to be diligent, to be very active in providing a comprehensive response.” Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins released a statement saying, “Through increased partnership, enhanced surveillance and data collection, modernizing prescribing and dispensing practices, and connecting patients with high quality, holistic care we will continue to take coordinated action to combat the opioid crisis in Ontario and across the country.” Officials are hopeful that by acting quickly they can help to curb the current epidemic.
Unfortunately for drug users, there is no such thing as a safe street drug. Fentanyl has also been found in methamphetamine, ecstasy, codeine, and alprazolam, (better known as Xanax). A variant has even been found in blotter sheets being sold as LSD. At the Insite Center in Vancouver Canada, 80% of crystal meth and 40% of cocaine tested positive for fentanyl contamination. Insite is part of a strategy that allows intravenous drug users to inject themselves legally under supervision and with sterile medical equipment. Clients can also voluntarily have their drugs tested. A pharmacy in Vancouver which tests drugs has also seen an increase in the number of “party drugs” testing positive for Fentanyl, with one pharmacist saying that they are now more surprised when a drug tests negative. He says that addicts aren’t the only people who need to be worried. Many people who use drugs only occasionally are putting themselves at risk for a fatal overdose. In Georgia, two people were killed and dozens became ill after ingesting what they thought was the painkiller Percocet. The substance has not yet been identified but is thought to be Fentanyl or Carfentanil.
In the world of illegal drugs, the only safe option is to remain completely abstain. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, or how little you take. A single dose laced with just a few grains of fentanyl or carfentanil can kill a person. Even those who don’t use opioids are now at a greater risk than ever before. There have been debunked reports of fentanyl-laced marijuana, but experts are saying that it’s just a matter of time before it actually does happen.
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