DEA Issues Nationwide Public Health Warning About Fentanyl and Fentanyl-laced Heroin

DEA Issues Nationwide Public Health Warning About Fentanyl and Fentanyl-laced Heroin

DEA Issues Nationwide Public Health Warning About Fentanyl and Fentanyl-laced Heroin The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a "nationwide alert" about the growing threat to public health of the opioid painkiller fentanyl. The warning comes because of a recent surge in overdose deaths across the country from heroin laced with fentanyl. "Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in the DEA Press Release. She called it a "significant threat to public health and safety."

The DEA warning is welcome, but it's a year or two behind similar warnings from several states where public health authorities and law enforcement officials have already issued warnings about the significant up-ticks in fentanyl deaths. For example, Pennsylvania's Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs issued a warning back in mid-2013 about fentanyl, after 50 fatal overdoses were reported in the state in just the first six months. Fentanyl is commonly used to "cut" heroin, making it even more deadly than it already is.

Seizures of illicit fentanyl quadrupled from 2013 to 2014, the agency said. "Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety," said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "Often laced in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin." Fentanyl is said to be the most potent opioid available for medical use. Doctors prescribe fentanyl in micrograms rather than larger milligrams, so the risk of 20 overdose is very real indeed. In addition to the dangers of overdose and death to fentanyl users and abusers, unintentional fentanyl poisoning is a real threat to anyone who comes in contact with it. And law enforcement are particularly at risk.

The DEA warned law enforcement personnel to avoid contact with fentanyl during drug seizures and arrests because it is easily absorbed through the skin, or accidentally inhaled if the powder becomes airborne during handing. "Fentanyl is extremely dangerous to law enforcement and anyone else who may come into contact with it. DEA will continue to address this threat by directly attacking the drug trafficking networks producing and importing these deadly drugs," Leonhart said. The DEA's fentanyl fact sheet states that fentanyl "can serve as a direct substitute for heroin in opioid dependent individuals. However, fentanyl is a very dangerous substitute for heroin because it is much more potent than heroin and results in frequent overdoses that can lead to respiratory depression and death." In the last two years, the DEA says, there's been a "significant resurgence in fentanyl-related seizures." State and local labs reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions in 2014, up from 942 in 2013 - a roughly 4 x increase. In addition, the DEA says it has identified 15 other fentanyl-related compounds. Fentanyl abuse has increased globally over the past two years, not just here in the US. Russia, Ukraine, Sweden and Denmark all report increases.

Mexican authorities have seized fentanyl labs there, said the DEA, and "intelligence has indicated that the precursor chemicals came from companies in Mexico, Germany, Japan, and China." "We have lost too many Americans to drug overdoses," the DEA's Leonhart said, "and we strongly encourage parents, caregivers, teachers, local law enforcement and mentors to firmly and passionately educate others about the dangers of drug abuse, and to seek immediate help and treatment for those addicted to drugs." Here at Novus, we strongly endorse Ms. Leonhart's encouragement to educate those around us about the dangers of drug abuse. And we especially second her recommendation for addicts to seek immediate help and treatment. Novus helps people every day recapture their dreams and get their lives back. Don't wait until it's too late, don't risk the very real danger of a sudden, life-ending overdose. If you or someone you know needs help, call us today. We're always here.

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