Wednesday, March 22, 2023

DEA Reports Widespread Threat of Fentanyl Mixed with Xylazine


While today's post is not technically of a tech nature, I know that doctors as well as many of you lay readers like me to keep you up to date with things dealing with drugs and public safety.  Along those lines, I happened to come across today's info courtesy of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  

As the number of prescriptions for legitimate pain medications drops, criminals have stepped in to fill the void.  One of the things I've advocated for a long time now is that if you simply cut the supply without offering citizens access to treatment, those who are addicted (whether through abuse or simply taking them as directed) will begin to look for a new source.  Unfortunately not enough money (at least yet) has a been applied to the treatment side of the equation.  I've seen several statistical evaluations that have shown that as prescriptions have decreased illegal purchases have increased to balance or even exceed previous usage rates.

Opiate withdrawal is a horrible experience.  It has both physical as well as psychological effects on the sufferer that are described as "hell on Earth", the worst illness ever, or "so terrible that there are no words to describe it".  Sufferers report chills, fever, sweating, horrible body aches, diarrhea, vomiting to the point of convulsions, insomnia, etc.  I have read accounts of people remaining awake for days at a time writhing in pain while vomiting and soiling themselves because they are not even capable of getting to the restroom.

I think it is easy to imagine for many of us that if you were going through something so hellish and you knew that just doing the drug "one more time" would make all of this go away, you'd take that next dose.

Leaving people to try and figure this out on their own without treatment and medical help is simply inhumane.

Now, I'll get off of my soap box and continue with today's post...

Fentanyl is the crème de la crème of narcotics.  It is exponentially stronger than morphine and heroin, yet just as addictive (or perhaps more).  Also, the withdrawals are just as bad, if not worse.

What drug dealers love about fentanyl is that it is SO powerful that it only takes tiny amounts to provide the euphoria all addicts crave.  Tiny amounts of a powder like fentanyl are easy to conceal and shipments can be much smaller.  Also, any drug dealer knows that the money is made in repeat business.  Fentanyl is highly addictive and it doesn't take much to create a dependent individual.  To avoid withdrawal, those people will return again and again as "repeat business".

Many illicit drug supplies are now laced with fentanyl to provide a better buzz as well as to ensure repeat business.  However, because it is so powerful, the margin of safety is slim.  It is easy to overdose on this drug simply because the difference between a dose that creates a buzz and a dose that causes fatality is very, very slim.

In fact, in November 2022 the DEA put out an alert that 6 out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.  You read that right... 60% of counter fit pills containing fentanyl can kill you simply by taking ONE.

Now comes word that street drugs have taken another step up by mixing a drug called Xylazine with Fentanyl.  Here is the update from DEA:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is warning the American public of a sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine. Xylazine, also known as “Tranq,” is a powerful sedative that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for veterinary use.  

Xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning. Because xylazine is not an opioid, naloxone (Narcan) does not reverse its effects. Still, experts always recommend administering naloxone if someone might be suffering a drug poisoning. People who inject drug mixtures containing xylazine also can develop severe wounds, including necrosis—the rotting of human tissue—that may lead to amputation.

According to the CDC, 107,735 Americans died between August 2021 and August 2022 from drug poisonings, with 66 percent of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel in Mexico, using chemicals largely sourced from China, are primarily responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in communities across the United States.

FDA recently communicated to health care providers about the risks to patients exposed to xylazine in illicit drugs. A copy of that communication can be found here: FDA alerts healthcare professionals of risks to patients exposed to xylazine in illicit drugs.

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