Deadly Dangers of Fentanyl

The Mass Opioid Overdose Epidemic in the US


The United States continues to fight the opioid crisis and deaths related to drug overdose, which remains a constant battle amongst Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website, between 1999 to 2017, more than 702,000 people had died from drug overdoses and of those deaths, almost 68% had died due to a prescription or illicit opioid.  These staggering numbers prompted President Trump to declare the opioid crisis as a public health emergency in October 2017, when it was recorded that more than 70,200 Americans died of opioids in 2017 alone. 


There are many types of available opioid drugs that are used to treat various levels of pain, stemming from moderate to severe, as well as chronic pain.  The most commonly recognized drugs doctors prescribe to patients are Oxycodone and Methadone, however, illegal use of these drugs, including the use of Fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain, has caused much alarm over the last several years. 


Although pharmaceutical Fentanyl is typically prescribed to cancer patients in a safe manner, illegally made fentanyl is responsible for much of the increase in overdose related deaths. In the July 2017 “Issue Brief” of the Prescription Behavior Surveillance System (PBSS) and in conjunction with the CDC, it is estimated that from 2012 to 2015 there was a 264% increase in deaths in the US on synthetic opioid overdoses. 


Fentanyl is a highly addictive and extremely potent drug when used on its own and when mixed with cocaine, heroin, or alcohol can be fatal.  Often, users who purchase this illegally made drug off the streets are typically unaware of the ingredients and what it is they are actually purchasing. This is why the unknown makeup of the street drug has led to increased fatalities.  


Users turn to this opioid to experience a sense of relaxation with a euphoric-like sensation, however, abuse and misuse can have harmful effects that can lead to long-term complications to both the brain and body.


Although it is impossible to get rid of this drug completely, there are steps that over time may possibly help to control and decrease the amount that is available to abusers.  President Trump’s “Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse” encourages Americans and communities to educate themselves and become aware of the effects of opioid use and abuse, including the reduction of supply and demand on prescription opioids, cracking down on illegal drug suppliers, and offering assistance to those struggling with addiction.


The opioid epidemic is a nationwide problem that will require the involvement and collaboration of health care providers, public health officials, law enforcement agencies, and medical examiners/coroners throughout the U.S. Remember that you are not alone and if you or someone you know is addicted to or are abusing opioids, there is help and treatment available.  Please talk to your doctor or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP for confidential assistance.



Tanya Ruiz can be reached at [email protected].