US Drug Deaths Increase Dramatically Due to Fentanyl

COVID-19 has impacted every facet of our lives, sadly, including the number of drug overdose deaths. According to the CDC, statewide and self-imposed COVID-19 lockdowns attributed to more than 100,000 of these deaths last year (April 2020-April 2021), an increase of 28% compared to the same period the year before.

Experts agree that people felt isolated, lost their jobs, or struggled with the emotions of losing someone to COVID-19 – all contributing to this spike in deaths.

But the lynchpin in all of this is fentanyl.

“One of the problems of why we see so many overdoses is due to fentanyl. If you remove fentanyl from the equation, deaths would plummet,” stated Dr. Jon Zibbell, Senior Public Health Scientist at RTI International.

Growing Problem

Often drug users do not know they are ingesting fentanyl. This is because drug dealers mix it into heroin, meth, cocaine or press it into fake opioid tablets to produce a less expensive product.

According to Harm Reduction Ohio, fentanyl is responsible for 80% of Ohio’s overdose deaths, making Ohio one of the most dangerous places to consume illegal drugs.

Fentanyl is highly addictive because it affects dopamine production in the brain. However, users only need a small amount for it to be addictive.

Signs of Fentanyl Poisoning

  • Lips immediately turn blue
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Confusion
  • Stiffness of body
  • Gurgling sounds while breathing
  • Slowed, shallow, or troubled breathing

Treatment Options

If you or someone you know is experiencing a drug overdose, immediately call 911. Many first responders carry Narcan to reverse the effects of an opioid (i.e., heroin) overdose, which is still the leading cause of US overdoses.  

Enroll yourself or your loved one in a professional rehab center. As an employer, consider offering payment assistance as part of your insurance or full coverage within your Employee Assistance Program.

Provide random drug testing at least once a year to detect heroin, meth, and cocaine use. If an employee tests positive, have a specific action plan to deal with the drug use.

If your employees feel isolated due to telecommuting, determine ways to bring your department or staff together once a month or more—Check-in with your employees via telephone or videoconferencing at least once a week.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office has committed resources from several areas to support the efforts of law enforcement, prosecutors, and communities in the fight against addiction. They’ve instituted a variety of measures ranging from prevention to treatment:

  • Casey’s Law, effective in 2012, allows parents, relatives, and friends to petition a probate court to order involuntary treatment of a person suffering from alcohol or other drug abuse if the person presents an imminent threat of danger to themselves or others.

  • Many Ohio countries have drug courts to address drugs and prevent recidivism. Participants usually sign a plea agreement waiving their rights to defense and due process. In addition, many drug courts use Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) such as Vivitrol and Suboxone to treat opioid addictions.

“It’s time to face the facts that this crisis seems to be getting worse. It’s time to stop the stigma, stop the blame. It’s time for inclusion, solidarity, compassion, and it’s time to follow the science and the data about what works,” stated Xavier Becerra, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

We couldn’t agree more.

We Can Help with Your Company’s Drug Policy and Procedures

SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. can review and update your HR manuals and provide workplace training to ensure your employees are clear on organizational drug policies. Call us at 330-255-1101 to speak with one of our HR specialists today!