Friday, April 1, 2016

Fentanyl risks increasing everywhere

Public health officials in Toronto are raising the alarm for the second time in recent weeks about the risks associated with fentanyl after reports of a spike in fatal overdoses.

An alert was issued Tuesday after 4 overdose deaths in two days. They reported “a white powdered substance sold as heroin and/or ‘china white’” is behind the overdoses. An illicit version of fentanyl is known on the street as China White.
The fentanyl made in clandestine labs is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. Powdered fentanyl looks like heroin and is often mixed with the drug — or sold as heroin — since it’s far cheaper and easier to manufacture. Even small doses of fentanyl can be lethal.

In Alberta last year 272 overdose deaths were connected to fentanyl.
Toronto Public Health also issued an alert in February, after six people overdosed in a five-day period. Health-care advocates are calling for greater access to naloxone, which reverses the symptoms of an opioid overdose. Health Canada recently changed naloxone’s status from prescription-only to make it available without a prescription. Individual provinces also need to approve the loosened restrictions.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last year issued an alert about fentanyl, warning that overdoses were “occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States.” The drug is so fast-acting and lethal that fentanyl victims are sometimes found with needles still stuck in their arms. The DEA said that powdered fentanyl was being brought into the U.S. chiefly by Mexican-based cartels.

President Barack Obama is seeking $1.1-billion in new money to expand treatment for opioid addiction. On Tuesday, the President attended the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta, where he announced new funding for states to buy naloxone.

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