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Fentanyl causes more overdoses in West Virginia than heroin

On Behalf of | Sep 26, 2017 | Blog |

It is clear to anyone who lives in West Virginia there are drug abuse problems. Many outlets have reported statistics that claim heroin is the leading cause of overdose deaths in the state, but new evidence suggests otherwise. According to WVVA, fentanyl may cause more overdose deaths here than any other drug. 

This is an alarming piece of information worth looking into. Below is a guide to what fentanyl is and how it causes overdose deaths.

The data

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) released data showing that fentanyl was the ingredient most involved in 2016 overdose deaths. This drug alone resulted in 354 out of 867 deaths, compared to heroin, which accounted for 250. 

The drug

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug comparable to morphine, but much more potent. It is frequently used to manage pain and is a schedule II drug. When prescribed, fentanyl may be called:

  • Duragesic
  • Sublimaze
  • Actiq

In its prescription form, it is often taken via lozenges, transdermal patches or injections. However, when it is used in a non-pharmaceutical form, it may take the form of powder, blotter paper, mixed with heroin or tablets.

The dangers

Taking an opioid such as fentanyl can affect the area of the brain that controls breathing rate. Because fentanyl is especially potent, it can cause people to completely stop breathing. This greatly increases the risk of overdose, particularly when the person taking it is unaware that a drug is laced with fentanyl. Many overdoses occur when fentanyl is mixed with other drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. 

This is just one factor in the opioid crisis facing West Virginia, and everyone should be aware of the dangers of fentanyl. Anyone who takes or sells drugs should always be aware of the risks involved, especially potential criminal charges, whether it is simple possession or manufacturing.