The opioid crisis that has been ravaging North America for many years now is compounded by the arrival of a new drug on the black market; Fentanyl. This extremely potent opioid analgesic is found in many other types of drugs (heroin, cocaine, crack, amphetamines, crystal meth) and is resulting in an increase in the number of overdoses.
From Suffering to Addiction
The opioid crisis is a reality that has settled upon the continent of North America (read:Overdose Crisis in Canada). The number of opioid-related overdoses has increased at such an alarming rate the health authorities are concerned. The crisis, which started in the United States in 2010, has spread to Canada. As painkillers (Vicodin, Oxycodone) became common place on the pharmaceutical market, prescriptions were provided to those suffering from chronic pain such as cancer patients and others with a wide variety of pain. Soon thereafter, demand increased, and the painkiller market exploded. According to a report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it was estimated that in the US, close to 11 million people suffered from an increased tolerance to opioids obtained through prescriptions in 2016.
The Unforgiving Law of Supply and Demand
The over-prescription of painkillers led enormous amounts of people down the road of addiction. Painkillers could not be prescribed on an indefinite basis and those who took the medication became tolerant to the substance, this eventually led many to turn to illicit drugs sold in the streets. Most often, painkiller addiction was replaced with the use of heroin or crack, as they were less expensive and abundantly available through dealers in North America. The demand was high, the supply increased sharply while always remaining competitive to the pharmaceutical market.
Since 2010, police have noticed that in the US and Canada, drugs have been cut with a synthetic product called Fentanyl. This analgesic has been around since the late 1950s, but wasn’t in widespread use among addicts. On top of not being expensive, fentanyl is an extremely potent substance (100 times stronger than morphine and 40 times stronger than heroin). Four granules of pure fentanyl salt, about 2 mg, can be enough to kill the average adult, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (read: How to Recognize and React to an Overdose).
Addiction Affects Society
In medical centers in Canada, we find more and more people that were originally prescribed painkillers by their doctor. And these aren’t hardened addicts or kids in the streets, but rather the average person. People who may have been involved in a car accident, for example. They were then prescribed opioid medication (for pain management) and then simply lost control of their use. Canada is the country that prescribes the most opioid medication, second only to the US. Certain specialists estimate that over-prescribing is the root cause of the opioid crisis in North America. The problem is that if the government intervenes to reduce the number of prescriptions, they involuntarily push people to the black market. The issue resides in management: on one side limiting prescriptions and on the other, allowing people with addictions to find treatments and patient support to enable them to overcome their addictions.