Fentanyl, Not Heroin, Is Now Long Island’s Deadliest Drug
According to medical examiner’s records, fentanyl has now become the deadliest drug on Long Island, killing at least 220 residents in 2016. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used primarily in a medical setting for anesthesia. Its effects are similar to heroin, but up to 50 times more powerful. You may have heard of it – fentanyl is the drug that killed the artist Prince last year, as well.
In total, opioids in general killed at least 464 people on Long Island in 2016. Hundreds more possible cases are pending.
The trend of fentanyl-related deaths on Long Island is not dissimilar to other areas in the country, such as New England. Fatalities are springing up everywhere, mainly for economic reasons. That is, fentanyl is cheaper to make than heroin, and a little bit goes a long way. It’s often laced into what people think is heroin, or substituted outright for it.
According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, more than 1,000 people are expected to die in New York City this year from a drug overdose. If true, that would result in the largest death toll in city history. Also, nearly half of all unintentional overdose fatalities in the city since July involved fentanyl.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, more than 30,000 deaths in the U.S. involved a prescription opioid, heroin, or fentanyl. Also, overdoses related to synthetic opioids increased more than 72% from 2014.
Just a few years ago, fentanyl was largely unknown to the public. But dealers have been moving fentanyl for years, a fact of which law enforcement has been well aware. Sometimes users choose fentanyl for a greater high or the rush of risk, but often they simply do not know what’s being cut into their heroin.
Or, fentanyl is fashioned into pills that resemble oxycodone or hydrocodone, two prescription drugs much less powerful than fentanyl. Users may think they are just getting pain pills.
But fentanyl is extremely powerful, and even small amounts can cause an overdose. Law enforcement and others who handle the drug often wear gloves and other protective gear, because even incidental skin contact has the potential to be deadly.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is now commonly manufactured by drug cartels in Mexico, and even cooked in clandestine labs in the U.S.
If you or someone you know is using heroin, please be aware that users are commonly receiving something far more powerful. Fatal overdoses can occur within moments of use, and often the anti-overdose drug naloxone isn’t available or even capable of reversing a fentanyl-related overdose.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology