Are Fentanyl Overdoses Increasing in Arizona?


Opioid abuse is increasing by the day; among all opioids, Fentanyl overdose is at an all-time high in Arizona. People of all ages suffer from substance misuse, and Fentanyl misuse is becoming more of a problem.


Many people ask, what is fentanyl? It is a potent opioid that is used in medicine for extreme pain and discomfort. Also used in anesthesia, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, which shows how much damage it can do if abused. 


Fentanyl is used as a last resort painkiller for people who cannot get rid of their pain through other opioids and pain medication. The misuse of fentanyl is the leading cause of opioid-related overdoses within the United States, with 59% of opioid-related fatalities occurring from fentanyl overdoses. 


The synthetic opioid gets to work by binding itself to the opioid receptors inside the brain and slowing bodily functions and bringing about a feeling of euphoria the user cannot experience from anything else. If used for medicinal purposes, fentanyl can produce some positive effects. However, its abuse can completely disrupt the way your body functions and can permanently damage vital organs of the body, like the brain. 


Some of the most common complications associated with fentanyl include stomach pain, anxiety, heartburn, gas, depression, and chest pain, among numerous other problems. More severe side effects can lead to irregular heartbeat, seizures, and slowed breathing. 


How Much Fentanyl is Needed to Overdose?


There is no fixed amount of fentanyl that can lead to an overdose. It is one of the most potent opioids, and any quantity can prove fatal. The dosage differs from person to person; there are several factors that contribute to the amount of fentanyl your body can withstand. From a person’s size to diet and physical health, everything contributes to the amount of fentanyl that the body can withstand. 


There are rehab centers dedicated to helping people with substance abuse. Cornerstone Healing Center is an Arizona rehab center that provides top-tier support and facilities for those who are looking to overcome substance abuse issues.


The initial signs of a fentanyl overdose include difficulty breathing, which can reduce the amount of oxygen within the body and create severe complications. Hypoxia, a condition related to a reduced amount of oxygen reaching the brain, is most commonly associated with fentanyl overdose. It can have grave consequences and can lead to permanent brain damage.


In 2018, there were 67,367 reported deaths due to drug overdose; of those 67,367 deaths, 46,802 were from opioids, meaning nearly 70% of all drug overdose deaths were from opioids. Synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, were responsible for 28,400 deaths, an increase of 10%, as compared to the previous year. 


Are Fentanyl Overdoses Increasing in Arizona?


In Arizona, the death rate from synthetic opioids doubled in 2018 in comparison to 2017, which is quite alarming and goes to show that fentanyl overdoses in Arizona are increasing on an unprecedented scale. Furthermore, in 2020, overdose deaths in Arizona increased by 45%, leading to 1,982 fatalities.


The year-to-year increase in opioid overdoses is due to several factors and experts are now speaking on the matter.


An associate professor at ASU’s College of Health Solutions, Dr. Raminta Daniulaityte, opines that an increase in the number of overdose deaths is due to the influx of illegal synthetic opioids in the state. 


She professed, “There is a market for these drugs, and many people who were long-term users or were exposed to prescriptions of pharmaceutical opioids, because of the regulations that were implemented, were just cut off from the sources and had no significant intervention to help them deal with their dependence and were forced to turn to illicit opioids.”


The state of Arizona has taken several steps to stop the rise in opioid overdose; however, these steps have not produced the results that were expected. 


The 2017 Opioid Action Plan was promulgated by the state legislature of Arizona but instead of stopping opioid overdose, it contributed to an increase in the amount of illicit fentanyl circulating in the market. The plan attempted to reduce the concentration of opioids that were prescribed by doctors and physicians. 


If doctors prescribed an opioid in excess of 50 morphine milligram equivalents, they had to warn the patients of the risks associated with opioids and how they could lead to permanent damage. Along with this, doctors and pharmacists were discouraged from prescribing opioids that were higher in concentration than 90 morphine milligram equivalents. 


This step actually led to many people, who had been taking high concentration prescription opioids previously, resorting to illicit sources to get the drug of their choice. Instead of reducing the flow of fentanyl in the market, these actually increased the amount of fentanyl that was going around in the state, leading to more overdoses and an even higher death rate.


Fentanyl Withdrawal


Quitting an opioid is not easy, and the withdrawal symptoms can last a long time. How long does fentanyl withdrawal last? Well, it depends on how long and in what concentration one has been consuming fentanyl. According to the National Library of Medicine, opioid withdrawal symptoms can start within 12 hours of the last dose. The symptoms are most severe during the first few days and can go on for up to one or two weeks. Afterward, people still experience withdrawal symptoms but the intensity of the symptoms starts decreasing as time passes on. 


Instead of going cold turkey, it is recommended to phase fentanyl out of your system. Weaning off also produces significant withdrawals, but the intensity is much lower and makes it easier for one to expel the opioids out of the system. 


In more extreme cases, people can suffer from opioid withdrawal syndrome, which can create severe health problems and even death in some cases. In order to avoid the possibility of health complications or worse, it is advised to reach out to a rehab center like Cornerstone Healing Center for assistance.


Drug overdose is increasing on a day to day basis in Arizona. If you have a loved one struggling with substance abuse, seek help immediately before it’s too late.

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