America Has A Fentanyl Problem That Cannot Be Ignored

It’s no secret that we have entered the deadliest wave of the opioid crisis. According to Dr. Raul Gupta, more than 100,000 people died from an overdose last year. That is the most that has ever been recorded, and nearly 2/3 of them are estimated to be fentanyl-related. Not a day that goes by that a news station does not report yet another tragic overdose. Just a few days ago, in my own San Diego county, the news reported on the staggering amount of overdoses in the county. 

One of the problems is that fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. According to the DEA, the drug enforcement administration, one dosage can kill you. It’s also much cheaper. In some parts of the country, people can buy a pill for a dollar.

What Is Solution? Enforcement or Treatment? 

Part of the issue is treatment as we know it. I even hear treatment is expensive and it is not equal for everybody; some pay as much as a college tuition for treatment others, as we know, can receive treatment at low cost or even free in places such as the Salvation Army and other nonprofits. The truth of the matter is there are just not enough treatment centers or behavioral healthcare centers to go around. At the same time, law-enforcement officials or Drug Enforcement Agencies (DEA) will report that it is almost impossible to catch fentanyl being crossed over the border or entering the United States.

According to the podcast 5 Things That Matter by USA Today on March 31, there are two camps with respect to the fentanyl and the increasing fentanyl crisis. One is enforcement: do we invest in enforcement and provide support to organize enforcement to place people in jail. The other is treatment: do we focus on harm reduction programs that emphasize clean needles and education to users? Neither one of these will be an instant remedy to solve the ever-spiraling crisis of Fentanyl.

The Biden Administration’s Plan

President Biden has proposed a budget released this past week that represents an historic amount spent on recovery services and harm reduction for the first time ever, 10% of $3.5 billion earmarked for the substance-abuse & mental health service administration would be set aside for recovery services, basically helping people who have been historically unable to access care. Yet as we all know that accessing treatment and providing enforcement will in no quick wave provide a quote of silver bullet to end the drug crisis, and still, people need help and getting life-saving treatment.

As treatment providers across the country, what is your stance on this issue?

What treatment and enforcement strategies do you propose?

What are your communities doing?

How are you working with law enforcement, treatment providers, funeral directors, and families ravaged by this pandemic? 

Here are some additional resources you may want to read about this topic.

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