Heroin Now Kills More People Than Guns In America

Heroin kills more people than guns

Heroin Now Kills More People Than Guns In America

According to news sources, for the first time ever, deaths from heroin overdoses outnumber homicides by firearms.  There has not been a decrease in homicides resulting from firearms.  Instead, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of deaths from heroin overdoses, which can be attributed to drug dealers’ use of fentanyl to lace heroin.

In 2015, there were 12,979 gun-related homicides and 12,989 heroin-related deaths.  According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, obtained by the Washington Post, this upward shift has been occurring since 2007, when homicides from firearms outnumbered heroin overdoses by more than five to one.

Heroin, however, is not the cause of this major increase in overdoses.  That is now considered to be fentanyl, which can be as much as 40 to 50 times stronger than heroin.  Some drug dealers are using fentanyl, an anesthesia drug, to increase the potency of heroin that has been diluted.  Fentanyl  is the most powerful opiod available for medical use.  Fentanyl-heroin overdoses are unexpected but occur because of the strength of fentanyl.  Overdose deaths involving heroin cut with fentanyl increased more than 75% between 2014 and 2015.

In March, 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a nationwide alert in response to this increase in heroin overdoses.  According to the DEA, fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives produced in clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.  What makes it worse is that fentanyl is potentially lethal in very small doses.

Mary Leary, Deputy Director in the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said “heroin is bad enough, but when you lace it with fentanyl, it’s like dropping a nuclear bomb on the situation.”  A lethal dose of heroin is approximately 30 milligrams.  A lethal dose of fentanyl is about three milligrams.  Drug users are usually unaware that the heroin they are injecting is laced with fentanyl and can accidentally take a deadly dose.  Two other factors involving the power of fentanyl are that a drug dealer’s measuring equipment isn’t that accurate and most street fentanyl is made in a clandestine lab.  The latter makes the drug more pure and thus results in more unpredictable responses from users.  On the street, heroin and fentanyl look identical.  Tim Pifer, Director of the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory, said “you’re injecting yourself with a loaded gun.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin overdose deaths have risen at an alarming rate, increasing by 45 percent between 2006 and 2010. The rapid increase in fentanyl/heroin overdoses has led to first responders receiving training in the administration of Naxolone, a prescription drug that can be injected or given nasally to reverse an opioid overdose. In the past, medical first responders have traditionally administered naloxone, which is nonaddictive and only has an effect if a person has opioids in her or his system. The American Public Health Association adopted a policy statement in 2013 in support of allowing increased access to naloxone.

What do you think can be done to reduce overdose deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin?

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