By Sandy Baker
Drug overdoses are deadly consequences of addiction and dependence. Many times, they are avoidable with proper addiction treatment. However, opioids like fentanyl are so potent that they can cause an overdose on their first use.
Overdoses End Lives Too Early
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, from April of 2020 to April of 2021, 75,673 deaths from opioid overdoses occurred in the U.S., up from 56,064 the year before. Many of these deaths are attributed to fentanyl. Addiction also increased during the pandemic.
Of synthetic opioids, fentanyl is particularly worrisome. Intended for use of pain relief for advanced cancer patients, the drug is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. While it can be used safely when monitored by a physician, fentanyl is potentially deadly when taken illicitly. In some cases, fentanyl is mixed with heroin or cocaine, unbeknownst to the user. Someone who is not aware that their drugs contain fentanyl is at an especially high risk of overdose.
While the ultimate solution is to take fentanyl off the streets, what can be done to help keep people safe in the meantime?
Harm Reduction Strategies
Many people support the strategy of harm reduction when it comes to dangerous substances like fentanyl. Harm reduction focuses on making drug use safer rather than helping people overcome addiction and remain abstinent from drugs. Some examples of harm reduction strategies for fentanyl include handing out fentanyl test strips so that people can test the drugs before using them; providing access to naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of opioids during an overdose; and setting up prevention centers where people can inject drugs and have access to medical care if an overdose occurs.
Prevention centers like these often offer tools and resources for addiction treatment as well. The approach is to first reduce the number of people who die on the streets or in homes because they are using alone and overdosing, and then to promote addiction treatment.
An Alternative Solution: Abstinence
While harm reduction strategies can meet an immediate need of preventing overdose, they do not help people get their lives back on track and regain their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Some would argue that they encourage continued drug use.
At The Ranch at Dove Tree, we believe that the only real solution to drug use is long-term, compassionate, individualized treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug use and worried about overdose or other consequences, we are here to help. We know that the fear of overdosing is very real. We also know that intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms make it nearly impossible for you to stop using on your own. Addiction and dependence are progressive diseases, and it can feel sometimes like there’s no hope of treating them. But long-term sobriety and wellness are possible.
Professional treatment provides medical detox so clients can withdraw safely with minimum discomfort. Detox is followed by individual and group therapy as well as holistic therapies to help clients understand their reasons for using, get help with issues like mental illness and chronic pain that might have driven them to use, and meet others who can support them in changing their lives for the better.
In a drug and alcohol treatment center like The Ranch at Dove Tree, you gain the support and motivation you need to make a break from addiction for good. Reach out to our admissions counselors to learn more about what we offer. We can help you end your fear of drug and alcohol overdose.