NC Policy Watch recently reported on the “epidemic within the opioid epidemic,” fentanyl. A synthetic opioid created in the 1960s, fentanyl is primarily used in anesthesia and pain management, particularly after surgeries and cancer treatment. It’s wildly potent and can be 100 times stronger than morphine.
Another one of fentanyl’s features is that its chemical structure is extremely adaptable; small changes can make it 100 times more potent. Potency and adaptability have led to fentanyl becoming popular in the illicit drug market however sometimes people don’t know they’re buying something laced with fentanyl.
According to NC Policy Watch, “In the first decade of the new century, medical examiner’s offices in the nation’s largest cities began reporting fentanyl’s presence in an overwhelming number of overdose deaths. Even those who had successfully managed drug habits for years were overdosing from drugs they didn’t realize were now far more potent.”
In North Carolina, while death certificates do have a code for “other synthetic narcotic overdose,” we do not have a specific code for fentanyl’s involvement in a drug overdose. Using the general code, as of May 2022, there have been 1,342 deaths.
One way to reduce this number would be to make Naloxone, a drug used to treat overdoses in an emergency, more widely available.