Fentanyl is the problem

The solution is right in front of our eyes

March 12, 2018

Flashing lights and blaring speakers, a classic party scene. What better way to have fun then to take some pills? Party culture can be safe, but it can also involve dangerous activities like popping pills.

Eventually, this habit can spiral to death. Drugs like Xanax, heroin and cocaine can all be laced with insanely deadly drugs, such as fentanyl, a toxic narcotic around 100 times more deadly than morphine.

With the recent bust in our area resulting in the finding of fentanyl, laced drugs can be only one small step away.

Fentanyl is not new to the medical scene; the drug was created by chemist Paul Janssen in the 60s and was used for anesthetic practice according to American Chemical Society publications, a non-profit scientific society. However, like most narcotics, fentanyl found its way to the street in the mid-1970s. This narcotic was different, however.

Fentanyl holds the spot as one of the most intense pain relievers on the market, and is used to help treat cancer pain in patients who are opiate-tolerant, which means patients are consistently receiving opiate pain killers daily and are less affected by the opiate benefits according to Laura Stokowski RN, MS, a University of Michigan nursing graduate.

Stokowski says that these patients are usually receiving different drugs like morphine or oxycodone and aren’t getting the pain relief they need. When they come to this problem, they have a helpful but dangerous solution, fentanyl.

Doctors will give patients ACITQ, a fentanyl citrate in the form of a lollipop that helps soothe the pain. However, instead of being measured in mg, milligrams, fentanyl is measured in mcg, micrograms. One microgram is equal to .001 milligrams. This minimal dose just goes to show how strong fentanyl is, but the issue is worse then that.

Lisa Gee-Cram, a detective first lieutenant with the Michigan State Police, believes that people know its toxicity, thanks to the media but do not know all they need to.

“I do have a concern that people don’t realize how vulnerable their own families may be to it,” Gee-Cram said. “When this epidemic began we called it a heroin crisis. People don’t understand the fentanyl crisis is a synthetic opioid, meaning it mimics the reaction of heroin with slight variations to the user.”

Gee-Cram is also concerned that people think Fentanyl can only be given through the veins, which is also false.

“There is an increasing danger and concern of illicit pills that are being pressed to look just like the pharmaceutical brands,” Gee-Cram said.

San Francisco had issues when people had pill pressed fentanyl, making it look like a Xanax pill, identical all the way to the letter markings on the pill. One person died and eight people ended up in the ER, suffering from heart failure and heart attacks.

This problem affects everyone. Famous musician Prince died of a Fentanyl overdose, and rapper Lil Peep died at the age of 21 from a Fentanyl overdose that was mixed with Xanax.

According to Gee-Cram, the substance that it is mixed with does not even have to be a drug.

“The fentanyl can be added to any substance that is water soluble that the body can break down,”  Gee-Cram said.

Some examples of this could include vitamin B or even talcum powder.


However, when drugs and these substances are mixed together, they are not completely united.

“You can’t mix the substances together very well so there could be ‘hot spots’ that result in overdose deaths,” Gee-Cram said.

These spots contain more drug than filler, leading to users overdosing.

This epidemic has grown to be huge, and seems impossible to stop, but assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Social Work and Stockbridge High School graduate Jamey Lister believes there are steps students can take to help. Lister said that there are usually two groups of people that develop opiate problems, and these people are usually impulsive or have low self esteem.

Lister thinks that it is possible to save both, but the low self esteem groups would be the easiest. “If you have a problem, go to Jackson or nearby city for substance abuse treatment,” said Lister. “SHS could benefit from starting a group treatment or assessing students routinely for mental health and substance use problems and then referring them to treatment either at SHS or in nearby city.”

Lister thinks that its highly important to talk to people if a student knows that they having problems with any drugs.

“If you know of people struggling with opioids or other alcohol drug problems, encourage them to find a counselor,” Lister said. “Addiction is a disease and needs medical attention.”



To hear Lister talk about Telemedicine and how it could help rural areas, click here


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