spilled medicine

According to the CDC, 107,375 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in January 2022.  A staggering 67 percent of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Some of these deaths were attributed to fentanyl mixed with other illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin; unfortunately, with many users unaware they were actually taking fentanyl. Only two milligrams of fentanyl is considered a potentially lethal dose; it’s particularly dangerous for someone who does not have a tolerance to opioids.

“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered,” said United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram. “Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison. We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose death and poisonings from claiming scores of American lives every day.”

There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Both are considered synthetic opioids. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced-stage cancer. The CDC has developed a telling video on the dangers of fentanyl.

The increase in overdose deaths highlights the need to ensure people most at risk of overdose can access care, as well as the need to expand prevention and response activities. CDC issued a Health Alert Network Advisory to medical and public health professionals, first responders, harm reduction organizations, and other community partners recommending the following actions as appropriate based on local needs and characteristics:

  • Expand distribution and use of naloxone and overdose prevention education
  • Expand awareness about and access to and availability of treatment for substance use disorders
  • Intervene early with individuals at highest risk for overdose
  • Improve detection of overdose outbreaks to facilitate more effective response

Fentanyl Test Strips: A Harm Reduction Strategy

Fentanyl test strips are inexpensive and typically give results within 5 minutes, which can be the difference between life or death.  Test strips are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in all different kinds of drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.) and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables). These test strips provide people who use drugs and communities with important information about fentanyl in the illicit drug supply so they can take steps to reduce risk of overdose.

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids—including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications—when given in time. Naloxone is easy to use and small to carry. Learn more.

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Register to attend our January 2023 Friday Focus 4 Health Series as we focus on Opioids and Adverse Drug Events. 

Register Today

Our Friday Focus 4 Health Series is intended to jump start or augment your current quality improvement efforts. Participants will connect across the Dakotas for a diverse and collaborative learning experience designed to improve patient outcomes.

Visit our Friday Focus 4 Health Webpage to access additional information and resources.