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Viewpoint: While COVID rages, fentanyl quietly leads young deaths

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Six years ago, illicitly manufactured fentanyl was a relatively unknown drug. Today, it is the leading cause of death for American adults ages 18-45, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest data finds that between May 2020 and April 2021, nearly 64% of the 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the country were related to fentanyl, a powerful and dangerous synthetic opiate. And in Delaware, more than 80% of drug overdose deaths between 2020 and 2021 were caused by fentanyl, according to the state Division of Forensic Science’s annual report.

It’s not a ‘far away’ crisis, it’s in our local communities and very well our front door or neighbor’s. It’s important to remind ourselves that the opioid epidemic has not gone away but is still very much alive and even deadlier because of fentanyl.

Many of us remember the moment we heard that music legend Prince had died. Most shocking was that he died after taking what he thought was a common painkiller, Vicodin, but was actually a counterfeit painkiller that was laced with fentanyl.

Dr. Lynn Morrison

“In all likelihood, Prince had no idea he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him,” local police said at the news conference. “Others around Prince also likely did not know that the pills were counterfeit containing fentanyl.”

Why is this happening? As a synthetic drug, fentanyl is cheaper to produce, thus attractive to drug dealers who use it to cut their drugs and stretch them farther. It’s turning up in pills disguised as pharmaceutical painkillers, in cocaine, in meth, in Ecstasy. And there’s no way for drug users to realize their product has been contaminated with a deadly drug 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

Fentanyl is tearing apart Delaware families and killing our sons and daughters. Here’s what you can do:

  •       If you are battling addiction, do not take drugs alone.
  •       If someone you love is battling addiction or is in treatment, have Naloxone, an overdose-reversing medication, available to administer in the event of an overdose. It can be acquired for free via the mail by visiting nextdistro.org/delaware
  •       Contact BCCS for help managing your addiction.

BCCS has adapted overdose prevention and response efforts to address risk factors associated with synthetic fentanyl. We save lives. We help our clients stabilize their lives, and provide the support necessary for a successful future. Please spread awareness about this threatening fentanyl trend.  You, too, could save a life.

Dr. Lynn Morrison is CEO of Brandywine Counseling & Community Support, a drug treatment provider and educational organization with resources around Delaware.


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