An addict injects heroin, even as a fentanyl test strip registered a positive result for contamination, Wednesday Aug. 22, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
January 16, 2019
A new report out this week by the National Safety Council finds Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than in a car crash. It is a sobering statistic due in part to the rise of the illicit drug fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine. In fact, fentanyl now surpasses heroin as the number one cause of opioid related deaths and was linked to nearly 29 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016.
So where is it coming from? Most of it is produced in China, according to US officials, where Chinese authorities have a hard time regulating the thousands of chemical facilities operating both legally and illegally in the country. The drug comes into the US via a drug pipeline operated by Mexican cartels or shipped directly from China.
As law enforcement officials struggle to keep the drugs off the streets, researchers have created a controversial tool to prevent overdose deaths: fentanyl test strips. The strips allow people who use street drugs to test whether or not their drugs contain fentanyl. The thinking goes that, if the drugs test positive, a user might choose to use less, or perhaps even not at all. Critics of the test strips, though, say using them creates a false sense of security and could encourage people to seek out drugs that contain fentanyl in an attempt to achieve a more potent high.
On this episode of The Stream we talk to those at the center of the opioid epidemic and ask them what are the best tools in the fight against fentanyl.
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Social Epidemiologist, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health americanhealth.jhu.edu