Chicago’s Rising Fentanyl Problem
It is no surprise to anyone in the United States that opioid abuse has been on the rise in recent years, specifically fentanyl. The number of patients being prescribed painkillers has almost quadrupled since the 90’s from 76 million to 289 million in 2016. It has been described as a uniquely American problem, where pain relief prescriptions are about 40% higher than other developed countries.
Inevitably due to the high addiction rate of opioids, this has unfortunately led to increasing overdose deaths. In 2017 alone over 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in the USA with opioids being involved in 67.8% of cases.
Chicago Illinois is no exception to this crisis. The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that Illinois has a rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 people from opioid overdoses, compared to the national average of 14.6. It is not only prescription painkillers that are adding to the opioid addiction crisis, but substances such as fentanyl that is illegally sold on the street.
Fentanyl is a cheaper, synthetic opioid which can be 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is commonly added to heroin to increase strength and cut costs. Many users believe they are purchasing heroin when in fact it can be mostly fentanyl, resulting in rising overdose deaths. The DEA’s Chicago lab have stated that the drug is making up a more of their workload than ever and becoming a regular drug they see.
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