US government needs to step up its fight against fentanyl epidemic

US government needs to step up its fight against fentanyl epidemic

May 30, 2019

US government needs to step up its fight against fentanyl epidemic

Addiction Substance Abuse

Circa 1884, in a small farming town of Fayette County, a jail was built meant to house prisoners convicted for severe crimes like murder. Little did anyone know that nearly 135 years later, it would be turned into a facility to treat a different kind of prisoners. The inmates, rather the patients, housed in the facility now, are prisoners of the deadly menace that has gripped the country in a stronghold – Fentanyl. It is a synthetic opioid nearly 50-80 time stronger than heroin and 80-100 times more potent than morphine, cheaper to produce, and easier to distribute.

The jail turned detox facility has a capacity of 55 patients including both men and women. However sometimes the number of patients can go up to 95-100. Majority of these are suffering from fentanyl addiction and are undergoing “forced” detox as they serve their time or wait for their court appearances. One would find them sprawled on the mattresses on the floor or on mental bunk beds, curled up, shivering and braving out their withdrawal symptoms.

According to reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Fayette County has the seventh highest number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl. Leigh N Cannon, Deputy Health Commissioner, Fayette County, said that he is thankful that at least the patients in their facility are alive, unlike patients from other parts of the country. He said that the former jail premise is the only detox center they have for the moment and patients are undergoing their detox treatment there without any assistance. He went on to add that they have been hearing about funds since a long time but are yet to see the money.

The fact and figures

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report , nearly 228,000 people misused prescription fentanyl in the past year. It was reported as the main cause of thousands of overdoses every year in the U.S.

The CDC has for the first time identified ten places with the highest per capita fentanyl- related overdose deaths. It included five counties from Ohio, two from West Virginia and one from Kentucky, Baltimore, and St. Louis. Despite that, the local officials claimed that the government was not spending enough money for drug treatment nor was it launching preventive programs to warn people about the dangers of fentanyl.

In Ohio itself, fentanyl-related deaths rose from around 1,255 in 2015 to about 3,600 in 2017 indicating a three-fold increase. Comparing the statistics with the current ones, the situation has turned from bad to worse; with the number of people with fentanyl addiction and dying due to fentanyl overdose increasing day by day.

One of the worrying news that several health experts cited was the Trump administration’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to approve a $1.5 trillion cut over a period of 10 years from Medicaid. This move was estimated to affect nearly 500,000 people suffering from opioid addiction. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that the scale of death in the country is unparalleled, hence the action taken should be on the basis of the scale of the problem, otherwise no real progress would be made.

Summing up the situation, Steve Williams, mayor of Huntington County, said that people seeking treatment for addiction should not be made to wait for days, weeks or months; but should be admitted to treatment programs within six hours of when they say they are ready.

Government’s fight

The federal government of the United States has already declared the opioid epidemic as their utmost priority. In fact, president Donald Trump has taken several steps to fight the crisis, from curtailing the flow of fentanyl into the country and filing criminal charges against traffickers to allocating large amounts of funds for drug treatment. However, due to the growing number of overdose deaths due to fentanyl, health workers and officials are struggling to provide proper treatment to millions suffering from fentanyl addiction.

During the Drug Abuse Summit held in Atlanta in April 2019, President Trump said that everyone is united by a common goal – to free the country from the grip of drug addiction and to wipe out the opioid crisis once and for all.

However, some health experts beg to differ. John Walters, director of the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy during the George Bush administration, said that even after setting up a presidential commission to study the opioid crisis, the Trump government is struggling in their fight against the deadliest drug epidemic in the U.S. history. He went on to add that though the government is spending way much more amount of money in its fight against terrorism, it is not spending a similar amount in its fight against the opioid epidemic which would kill millions of American if not stopped now.

Some experts also argued that the funding for drug treatment is not adequate; which is further fueled by the infighting and chaos in the government during its first year when it failed to appoint a drug czar. They also added that the government is yet to produce a comprehensive strategy regarding its fight against drug addiction which is legally required by the American Congress.

The government official claimed that they have made progress in the fight against the opioid crisis on several fronts such as prosecution, enforcement,  and treatment, however accepted that there is lot more to be done. In an interview, Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to the President and the government’s spokesperson on the opioid crisis said that the war against the opioid menace has already begun and it will take time to overcome the crisis. However, people should not see the current situation with negativity. Instead there should be discussions on how to overcome the crisis. She further added that the government welcomed solutions from all quarters.


Seeking professional help from a certified drug addiction rehab center may be the only way to overcome an addiction and prevent death from overdose. A comprehensive fentanyl addiction treatment program involves a combination of detoxification process along with therapy and counselling sessions. While detox helps in flushing out the toxins from the body, therapy and counselling helps the patient learn various coping mechanisms to deal with daily life stressors without being dependent on drugs.

Treatment for drug detox treatment including fentanyl detox treatment are available at various reputed and licensed treatment centers across the country. If you or a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs like fentanyl and is looking for a licensed drug addiction treatment center, then get in touch with the Invictus Health Group. Our expert members can guide you to the right treatment center offering customized treatment plans. For more information, call our 24/7 helpline 866-548-0190 and speak to a member of our team. You can also chat online to a representative for further assistance.

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