As we approach the middle of 2018, we are still right in the thick of the opioid epidemic. People throughout the country are abusing and overdosing on substances like heroin, morphine, fentanyl, and oxycodone at a rapid rate. And while there is now more education available regarding these drugs and addiction than ever before, it still remains a public health issue that can sometimes feel unstoppable. In some states, the abuse of synthetic opioids is through the roof, impacting whole populations.
The people of Ohio are no stranger to opioid addiction and its consequences. Within Columbus, the state’s capital, a 47% increase in overdose deaths occurred between 2016 and 2017. In Cincinnati, there was a 31% increase in overdose deaths. While citizens of Ohio are dying because of opioid abuse, the majority of them are losing their lives to the popular synthetic opioid fentanyl.
What is Fentanyl?
Without a doubt, fentanyl is one of the most popular synthetic opioids available. This drug is extremely potent, as it only takes a small amount to get high and potentially overdose. Fentanyl is currently readily available throughout the country and even the world, and more and more shipments from foreign countries that produce the drug are entering the United States at a rapid rate. In fact, the people in Ohio who are drowning in Fentanyl get most of their supply from China.
Since fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, it produces the same effects as a natural opioid-like codeine or morphine does. When abused, fentanyl (as well as other synthetic opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone) can cause the following effects:
- Weakened immune system
- Respiratory depression, distress, or other respiratory-related problems
- Bowel obstruction and/or perforation
When a substance as addictive as fentanyl or other synthetic opioids are being abused, it can be easy to become dependent on them. In fact, it only takes a handful of days to start developing a dependency. And when a dependency forms, an individual must continue to consume more and more synthetic opioids in order to achieve the effects produced by being high. At this point, synthetic opioid addiction becomes a slippery slope, as the more that is consumed, the more likely it is for an individual to overdose.
How the STOP Act Can Help
As previously mentioned, one of the reasons why fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are as readily available as they are is because they are shipped into the United States from other countries. Rather than utilizing shipping services such as UPS or FedEx, these countries simply ship drugs through their local carriers so they come into the United States Post Office. The protocol for UPS and FedEx requires that senders provide them information regarding what is in the packages that they are sending, while USPS does not. USPS does not ask about the contents in a package, nor do they track them in ways that add to international data. Since 2002, UPS and FedEx have reported the contents and whereabouts of their packages for international data purposes.
Today, private carriers like UPS and FedEx are receiving less than half of the country’s international packages (36% to be exact) while USPS is receiving upwards of 318 million packages – many of which are filled with synthetic opioids like fentanyl. To help better control the drugs that are coming into the country, the STOP Act has been developed.
Through the STOP Act, Congress is pushing for USPS to take action and stop synthetic opioids from being shipped to us. The STOP Act will require USPS to uphold the same standards as UPS, FedEx, and other private mail carriers. This means that they obtain advance electronic data on every international package that comes into the United States within one year. Currently, the STOP Act has the backing of one-third of the Senate, as well as an endorsement from President Trump’s opioid commission. And while over half of the House of Representatives has developed a “companion version” of the STOP Act, many individuals within the House are working to prevent the bill from becoming a law.
The House has, instead of partnering up to make the STOP Act a law, develop their own version of a STOP Act that would provide four years (instead of one) for USPS to start gathering data. Additionally, their bill would require USPS to only collect data on 95% of all packages.
What To Do in the Meantime
While bills are waiting to become laws, the opioid epidemic continues. And, with each day that passes, more and more people lose their lives due to addiction. Initiatives like the STOP Act can help put a stop to opioid addiction, but what should we do in the meantime?
There is really no better way to prevent opioid addiction than to never abuse it or experiment with it. So, for those who are young and uninformed, it is imperative for adults to provide education to their children, nieces, nephews, etc. regarding opioid addiction. This can include talking openly about what synthetic opioids look like, what they are called in the streets, what kind of effects they produce, and how they can destroy one’s life. Remaining open and honest about drug addiction can help decrease the number of young individuals experimenting with dangerous substances.
Those who are currently addicted to fentanyl and/or other synthetic opioids require much more than education. While drug education will be an important aspect of their lives, it is more important to encourage those in need to obtain professional treatment. Synthetic opioids are historically difficult to stop using, which is why seeking out help where detox and therapy can be provided is usually one’s best option.
Most importantly, it is critical that as a loved one of an addict, you educate yourself about how to properly approach your loved one in ways that continually push them towards getting treatment without causing them to lash out. This can be extremely difficult, however, it can be done. To learn more about doing this, simply look online or reach out to a local therapist or treatment center to gather more information.
Get Help Now
There is no more time left to wait. Opioid addiction is a severe, life-threatening issue that if left untreated, can be fatal. Therefore, it is crucial to obtain treatment as quickly as possible to prevent death and/or other serious health consequences.
If you are addicted to synthetic opioids, there is help available. Contact us right now to get the support you need and deserve in order to overcome your active addiction once and for all.