Fentanyl and the Opioid Epidemic
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids lie at the forefront of today’s crisis. Their potency and high price on the streets make them a lethal danger in the opioid epidemic. Behavioral health professionals must understand the harm caused by fentanyl and other opioids to fight back against abuse and addiction.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with a potency 100 times higher than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. It comes in the form of branded prescription drugs such as Actiq and Duragesic. The drug also has street forms with names like Jackpot and TNT. Some of these street drugs consist of heroin laced with fentanyl for a stronger effect.
Doctors generally only prescribe fentanyl for patients with severe conditions. Certain analogs to fentanyl, such as carfentanyl, have such a high potency that they require protective gear to use safely.
How Does Fentanyl Fit Into the Opioid Crisis?
According to the CDC, the opioid crisis has three waves that occurred over the course of two and a half decades. The third wave started in 2013 and signaled an increase in overdoses related to synthetic opioids. Deaths related to synthetic opioid overdose often involve illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).
Many people who take IMF don’t realize they’re taking it. Illegal opioid sellers cut heroin and other drugs with fentanyl to enhance the high their products create. Fentanyl’s strength results in severe dependency that causes users to seek out increasingly stronger opioids.
Fentanyl Usage Statistics
Consider the following statistics:
- Between 2012 and 2014, illegal fentanyl seizures increased by almost seven times.
- Fentanyl confiscation happens the most in Eastern and Southern states.
- While a purchase of $6,000 of heroin sells for about $80,000, drug dealers can earn $1.6 million from $6,000 of fentanyl.
- During the 2017 fiscal year, officials seized over 81 pounds of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids from the mail.
The Importance of Combating Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction
Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl caused over 19,000 deaths in 2016. These numbers increase every year. However, behavioral health professionals can help our country reduce these statistics and save lives. They can detect fentanyl addiction and abuse during care, sometimes before abuse even happens. Their role in the healthcare system gives them prime opportunities to refer patients to opioid use specialists. You can fight back against fentanyl abuse by:
- Monitoring for signs of abuse
- Identifying risk factors
- Referring patients with opioid use disorder to the care providers they need
Using AccuCare and the Opioid Risk Tool to Predict Aberrant Behaviors
At Orion Healthcare Technology, we want to help behavioral health providers serve their patients. That’s why we added the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT) to our AccuCare EHR application. Developed using in-depth research, the ORT employs simple questions to determine a patient’s risk of opioid abuse. It creates a score that quantifies your patients’ risk of showing aberrant behaviors, or activities that indicate possible abuse. With over 90 percent accuracy, the ORT helps you understand which patients to monitor for opioid abuse.