Many Orange County families tragically recall the days when Oxycontin first took the nation by storm. The powerful narcotic painkiller, while marketed at less addictive, easily hooked countless medical and recreational users into its unrelenting grasp in the mid-‘90s. People who became addicted post-surgery shopped doctors for additional prescriptions or turned to street drugs like heroin out of desperation. Thus, the seeds for the opioid epidemic were sown. SoCal families reeled as addiction tore relationships apart and overdose claimed the lives of many who couldn’t get the addiction treatment they needed in time.

But the opioid crisis of today is far scarier than ever before, not least because of the circulation of a far deadlier drug: Fentanyl.

What is Fentanyl?

Perhaps best known as the cause of Prince’s tragic overdose in 2016, fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that’s 50 times stronger than heroin. What’s more, fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin – just holding a pill in your hand can be enough to give you a dangerous dose of the drug. At that strength, it’s far too easy to take too much – which means fentanyl puts a great many people at risk of fatal overdose. It comes as no surprise, then, that Fentanyl is causing more deaths in the US than heroin or OxyContin. Of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, 20,000 were related to fentanyl or similar synthetic opioids.

In addition to being available pharmaceutically, an illicit version of fentanyl is being manufactured, which makes is it cheaply and easily available for widespread use, both intentional and unintentional. It’s now commonplace for dealers to mix fentanyl into drugs like other heroin, benzos, meth, cocaine and Molly to cut costs and produce a stronger high.

Accidental Overdoses in SoCal Attributed to Fentanyl

California has thus far been spared from experiencing the opioid crisis at the same rate as other states, a fact that’s attributed largely to its apparent preference for stimulants like cocaine and meth. But it appears that’s all about to change. Indeed, deaths from heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl have increased in Orange County in recent years, a trend that shows no sign of slowing.

Fentanyl’s broad reach is due largely to the fact that it’s increasingly being mixed with other substances. This means that, while even high-tolerance opioid users are at far greater overdose risk, users of other drugs are also at risk of accidentally ingesting fentanyl – a move that can prove fatal within a matter of minutes.

The loved ones of three men who died in downtown LA last month as a result of an accidental fentanyl overdose know this all too well. The men had been drinking and snorted what they thought was cocaine (a mistake that anyone could easily make, as fentanyl is a white powder), and overdosed instantaneously. And it looks as if Southern Californians can expect more of this in the future. The Los Angeles Drug Enforcement Administration has seized batches of cocaine, meth and ketamine laced with fentanyl. It’s also shown up in MDMA and counterfeit Xanax.

Experts warn that the fentanyl epidemic will extend far beyond the typical sphere of opioid use. Says Jane C Maxwell, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies substance abuse, “We need to think of fentanyl being used with a wide range of drugs. We’re so concerned about heroin and fentanyl, people aren’t really looking at other uses of fentanyl and other problems that might occur.”

How to Protect Your Loved Ones from Fentanyl Overdose

If you suspect that your loved one is using drugs and think they may be at risk of fentanyl overdose, it’s more urgent than ever to help them before it’s too late. Here’s what you can do:

Be aware of the risks. If your friend or family member is using any type of drug that can be mixed with fentanyl, they’re at increased risk of overdose. And fentanyl lacing is nearly impossible to detect – just three milligrams of the drug is required for an overdose in the average-sized male, compared to 30 milligrams of heroin.

Carry Narcan. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can save lives in the event of an opioid overdose (which usually occurs because of respiratory depression). Be aware, though, that a fentanyl overdose may require extra doses of the antidote. Educate yourself on the proper use of Nalaxone so that you know how to administer is correctly, should the need arise.

Get your loved one into fentanyl detox as soon as possible

The only way to truly prevent overdose is to stop drug use. Even if your loved one believes they’re recreationally using, their usage, habits and tolerance can quickly escalate into a full-blown addiction. And with fentanyl in the mix, everyone in SoCal is at greater risk of serious consequences than ever before – regardless of their drug of choice.

We know overcoming addiction is easier said than done. That’s why Broadway Treatment Center’s passionate team is dedicated to serving the best interest of each client. In addition to the highest quality inpatient, outpatient and couple’s programming, we offer unique addiction treatment methods like surf therapy, recovery yoga and our own My Brain Solutions model, and can work with you to create the absolute best treatment plan to meet your family’s individual needs. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

That’s what we provide at the Broadway Treatment Center. Our Residential Treatment Program is run by compassionate clinical specialists, providing daily support and treatment to help all of our patients along the road to recovery. Programs are personalized and individually optimized to give every individual the best chance of success.

We provide a safe, comfortable and home-like environment for those who need help with drug and alcohol addiction. Our ultimate goal is to prepare each person to re-enter the local community and society as a whole.

As well as dealing with the initial addiction, our programs also include relapse prevention and life skills training. Find out more about our Residential Treatment Program and how you can access support with drug or alcohol addiction.