New Trends in Opioid Abuse.
There are new trends in Opioid abuse according to the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network. It used to be that when one heard the term “opioid abuse” that oxycodone, and the brand name OxyContin, was the drug that first came to mind. But today there are other opioids that are more available and more frequently abused. In some parts of the country Fentanyl has become the most frequently abused drug. Two other drugs, Carfentanyl and gabapentin, are also showing up in surveys of drug abusers. Here’s what you need to know about these drugs.
Fentanyl and Carfentanyl On the Rise
Fentanyl (also sometimes spelled as fentanil) is an opioid used for pain management and for anesthesia when used with other drugs. Fentanyl is very potent, about 75 times more powerful than morphine. These days Fentanyl is frequently used to cut (dilute) heroin. Adding fentanyl makes the heroin more potent, while reducing the cost – and increasing the profits – to the drug dealers. It is so prevalent in some parts of the country that fentanyl use far outnumbers all other opioids combined. The Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network reports that users in Ohio say “…It’s less and less heroin and more fentanyl; there’s no such thing as pure heroin; it’s very potent, but it’s not heroin.
Carfentanyl is a compound similar to fentanyl, but is 100 times more potent than fentanyl. Carfentanyl could be lethal at 2 milligrams. It was originally produced to be used in veterinary medicine as a large animal (as in elephant) tranquilizer. Carfentanyl is manufactured inexpensively in China. Just as with fentanyl, Heroin dealers mix carfentanyl with heroin to increase the potency of the heroin. Ohio users say “Everyone wants it if it’s cut with fentanyl because it is stronger… and it’s even better if it’s mixed with carfentanyl… If somebody overdoses and dies, (other) users want to know who provided that dope because it was obviously good…” When discussing the quality of heroin, users said “The quality isn’t based on heroin anymore… Any quality of heroin that’s mixed with fentanyl or carfentanyl, it’s going to be top notch.”
The high potency of fentanyl and carfentanyl are responsible for many of the recent deaths of drug users. As suggested in the users’ comments above, dealers have an incentive to increase the potency of the heroin they sell with these drugs because they make the heroin mixture more desirable to users. As the potency increases with the addition of fentanyl and carfentanyl, the risk of overdose increases drastically.
Growing Use of Gabapentin or Neurontin
The third newly popular drug of abuse is gabapentin, sold under the brand name Neurontin. Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication that is also used to treat nerve pain. Gabepentin is not an opioid, and as a non-narcotic is a first choice for relieving some types of pain. As a non-opioid and non-narcotic it was thought to have little risk for abuse. However, in the last year some areas of the country have reported increased use of gabapentin by addicts. It is used by addicts to ease withdrawal symptoms, as well as those on methadone to amplify the effects of methadone. Users say it intensifies the methadone, and gives a semi-euphoric feeling. Gabapentin was the most-prescribed drug of any controlled substance in the state of Ohio in December 2016.
Availability of New Rapid On-Site Screening Tests
In light of these new trends in drug abuse, several instant drug test kits have recently been developed to detect fentanyl, carfentanyl, and gabapentin. Corrections programs that deal with opioid users may want to consider testing for these drugs as well as for the usual opioids such as oxycodone.