Addiction is a huge problem in America today between alcohol, the opiate epidemic, a boom in cocaine production, and rising meth arrests It can be hard to keep track of what is going on. Especially if you are a parent with a 9-5 job and kids growing up in these crazy times.
Tobacco, alcohol, and opioids kill hundreds of thousands annually. Cannabis, meanwhile, has caused zero overdose deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has looked at the drug-related deaths that happened between 2011 and 2016, the most recent year data is available, to rank the 10 deadliest drugs being used in the United States. This isn’t the first time the CDC has released such a list – they announce the deadliest drugs each year. But it is the first time in four years that heroin hasn’t topped the list. Instead, fentanyl has been ranked the deadliest drug in the U.S.
Heroin was the most common perpetrator for overdose deaths from 2012 to 2015, while in 2011 fatal heroin overdoses made up for 4,571 deaths, or 11% of fatalities. That figure increased more than threefold in 2016, resulting in 15,961 fatalities, which accounted for a quarter of all drug-related overdoses in the same year.
Fentanyl has become the most deadly drug in the nation, involved in more overdose deaths than any other illicit substance, according to a new report.
The study’s authors discovered that most overdoses were caused by mixing more than one drug. For example, in 2016, 2 in every 5 cocaine overdoses were found to also involve fentanyl, while 1/3 of fentanyl overdoses also included heroin. Over 20% of fatal meth overdoses included heroin as well.
“Fentanyl is so deadly, in the geographic regions where it’s been flooding in, deaths soared like we’ve never seen before,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing
These disturbing figures point to the excessive prescription of painkillers from doctors, say experts, which have contributed greatly to the opioid crisis. In the beginning it was a heroin crisis, and now it’s a fentanyl epidemic. Although opioids are involved in most drug overdose deaths, there has also been a rise in meth and cocaine-related fatalities. From 2014 to 2016, cocaine-related deaths almost doubled from 5,892 to 11,316.
The study’s authors utilized text analysis for the death certificate evaluations to find certain mentions of the drug. It was discovered that the top 10 drugs within the 6-year time period were the same, and all belonged to three drug categories: opioids including fentanyl as well as heroin, methadone, oxycodone, morphine, and hydrocodone; benzodiazepines including diazepam and alprazolam; and stimulants including meth and coke.
They also found that prescription drugs were more likely associated with suicidal overdoses while illegal drugs such as heroin and fentanyl were the top causes for accidental overdoses.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that’s similar to morphine, but up to 100 times stronger. It’s traditionally used to treat patients experiencing severe pain. Outside of hospitals it’s sold as a powder, in tablets, or mixed in with heroin. When taken fentanyl binds to the body’s opioid receptors, creating an increase in dopamine levels, which produces a state of intense euphoria. It can also cause drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, unconsciousness, coma, and death. The drug’s potency means there’s a high risk of overdose, especially when mixed with other drugs such as cocaine.
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. This potent analgesic is typically prescribed to patients suffering from extreme and chronic pain. However, cannabis can and should be used as a safer alternative to fentanyl, because it has been proven to treat pain effectively, naturally, and without any side effects.
“The lethal dose for fentanyl is just 80mg, which equates to a small pinch of salt”
There’s also concerns that restricting painkillers too much makes it more difficult for people to get the medicine they genuinely need for chronic, debilitating pain. A 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine found that many Americans are undertreated for acute and chronic pain. And multiple reports suggest doctors have avoided working in chronic pain treatment because the legal and regulatory hurdles are so big. (Still, the evidence on whether opioid painkillers can even treat chronic pain is weak at best, even as it’s clear that prolonged use can result in very bad risks and complications.)
One way to fill this need for treatment without resorting to dangerous opioids may be medical marijuana. Several studies have found that states that allow pot for medicinal purposes — particularly states that allow dispensaries, where marijuana is sold — have fewer prescription painkiller deaths than one would otherwise expect. Intuitively, this makes sense: Marijuana is a potent painkiller for some types of pain, so it can potentially substitute deadlier and more addictive opioids in some cases.
Figures for opioid-related deaths only continue to soar, while still, there hasn’t been one documented case of a cannabis related death or overdose. The DEA acknowledges this: “Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality,” says the DEA Administrative Law Judge ruling.
To put it simply, cannabis overdoses are IMPOSSIBLE. The DEA says that you’ll need to consume around 1,500 pounds of cannabis within minutes in order to reach the lethal dose. That’s around 20,000-40,000 times the quantity found in your average joint. On the other hand, the lethal doses of commonly abused drugs are much more deadly: around 30 standard drinks for alcohol (which is 100% legal), 40 tylenol pills, 50 cups of caffeine (also completely legal), and 40 pills for Xanax.
Educate yourself and your loved one on the dangers of drugs. Education is a huge part of preventing future drug use. If prevention has already failed and you have a loved one who needs treatment contact us today.