By Susan Newby
The statistics are scary: Painkiller prescriptions in Tennessee in 2017 totaled 6,879,698: enough for 1.02 prescriptions for every man, woman and child in Tennessee.
In 2017: 1,268 Tennesseans died of an opioid overdose; the current overdose death rate is 19.3 per 100,000 people.
From 2013 to 2017: Heroin overdose deaths increased by over 300 percent and Fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased by over 800 percent.
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services is tackling the opioid overdose problem through a program called TN: Save a Life, which utilizes Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists whose key goals are to increase public awareness through trainings and media campaigns, reducing stigma through education and harm reduction through Naloxone distribution.
Offering assistance and Naloxone training in DeKalb, Putnam, Van Buren, White and Warren counties to groups such as emergency room personnel, first responders, and law enforcement officials, among others, is Suzanne Angel.
While most people are aware of the opioid crisis, which has received massive media attention and touched almost everyone’s life in some way, perhaps an even greater crisis in on the way with the resurgence of cocaine.
A federal survey showed some 2 million Americans used the stimulant regularly in 2017, up from 1.4 million in 2011. A 2018 report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said record cocaine production in Colombia, the primary source for cocaine seized in the U.S., has widened the cocaine market and pushed prices down.
The true culprit and danger in both opioid and cocaine overdoses: Fentanyl and Carfentanil.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 times more powerful than heroin and 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Between 2014-2015 overdose deaths from synthetic opioids increased by 72.2 percent. About 2-3 milligrams of Fentanyl can be lethal.
Even more deadly is Carfentanil: a Schedule II substance used as an elephant tranquilizer, which is estimated to be 100 times stronger than Fentanyl with as little as .00002 gram able to kill a person.
With a government crackdown on over prescribed opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and morphine, more people with a chronic dependence on these pain killers are seeking relief on the streets, with pill presses increasing in popularity to meet the demand for counterfeit opioids.
And, you guessed it, illegal drug manufacturers are using the powerful synthetic opioid Fentanyl as a cheaper filler in both street opioids and cocaine. Carfentanil has even been found as the cause of overdose deaths.
“In the ‘70s a ‘speedball’ was a mix of heroin and cocaine. I call this ‘speedball 2.0.’ Fentanyl has made it much worse. It’s made every drug people are addicted to into a crisis,” said Newtown, Ohio Police Chief Tom Synan.
In today’s society with information and knowledge key in battling chronic abuse of opioids and illegal drugs, the TN: Save A Life program offers real help for Tennessee families. ROPS 3 North representative Suzanne Angel recently provided information on opioid overdoses and demonstrated the use of Naloxone (Narcan) to a group of county law enforcement and county government officials as well as judicial commissioners.
Visit TNtogerther.com to learn more about facing this crisis that can touch our neighbors, friends, family. To obtain an overdose reversal kit containing the potential life-saving spray Naloxone, you can contact Ms. Angel at 1-615-588-1622 or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know is in active addiction, help is available, call the Tennessee REDLINE, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-889-9789.