By Stephanie Siete, Public Information Officer, CBI Teens, young adults and people in general engaging in risky behavior is not new news… it IS the news! Provisional data from...
By Stephanie Siete, Public Information Officer, CBI
Teens, young adults and people in general engaging in risky behavior is not new news… it IS the news! Provisional data from the CDCs National Center for Health Statistics indicate there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the US during the 12-month period ending in April 2021. This is an increase of 28.5% from 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before. We can no longer call experimentation and drug use normal behavior. This is a deadly epidemic killing many and impacting all. It is not a youth problem; it is a community problem. It’s time to flip the switch and reverse these numbers of lives lost in America from preventable deaths.
It’s time to start talking about drugs in our homes daily. We can’t wait to have the conversation when we think it is a problem. It might be too late. Currently, we are at an all-time record high of unnecessary deaths. We are losing about 275 people a day to drug overdoses. People are dying prematurely — sometimes from just one use.
One Pill Can Kill. Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a deadly opioid that by now, most Americans are familiar with. It can be fatal with miniscule amounts… that look like grains of salt. When it is cut into a powder or a pill, one might never suspect it is even there. If someone is a regular opioid user and has built up a tolerance to use, they may not die of respiratory arrest right away. However, a first-time user may stop breathing immediately. Synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, caused nearly two-thirds (64%) of all drug overdose deaths in the same 12-month period referenced above, ending in April 2021.
In Arizona, a recent drug bust netted over 360 pounds of fentanyl. Nearly 1.7 million fentanyl pills allegedly connected to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel were seized in Arizona this week (Dec. 17, 2021) — a record bust in the state, according to police and federal authorities. The massive seizure by Scottsdale police and Drug Enforcement Administration officials had an estimated street value of $9 million and may have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. “The pills in front of you are death, that’s what they are,” Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther told reporters.
Seizures of fentanyl at the southern border have spiked over the past 12 months, doubling the amount of the lethal drug confiscated a year earlier, according to recent reports.
In the period from October 2020 to September 2021, Customs and Border Protection officials seized 11,201 pounds of fentanyl, the Washington Examiner reported.
One kilogram of fentanyl is equivalent to 500,000 lethal doses, the federal government estimates, meaning the seizures represent 2.5 billion doses prevented from entering the country, the report said.
In fiscal year 2020, 4,791 pounds of fentanyl were confiscated.
The increase in seizures is closely connected to the jump in overdose deaths in the US.
The drug world is forever changing and becoming more dangerous and deadly. Fentanyl is the prevalent and popular substance that is constant and concerning. It is potentially cut into almost any drug. You can’t take risks today or even experiment. Nothing is vanilla. Fentanyl is cut into meth, heroin, cocaine and even marijuana. Again, you need to have conversations about this deadly drug trend regularly to inform and protect people. The headlines of fentanyl are becoming too common daily.
Naloxone hydrochloride (also known as naloxone, NARCAN® or EVZIO®) is a drug that can temporarily stop many of the life-threatening effects of overdoses from opioids. Naloxone can help restore breathing and reverse the sedation and unconsciousness that are common during an opioid overdose.
How is Naloxone given?
Naloxone should be given to any person who shows signs of an opioid overdose or when an overdose is suspected. Naloxone can be given as a nasal spray or it can be injected into the muscle, under the skin, or into the veins. Steps for responding to an opioid overdose can be found in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit.
The other drugs
Opioids aren’t the only drugs of abuse. We still need to be concerned and educated about marijuana, tobacco, cocaine, meth, heroin, and alcohol… to name a few. The problem is they all have evolved.
Marijuana is 710, not 420. It is oil based and used in electronic devices like vapes or wax pens. It can be a crystal form known as “Diamonds” not to be confused with methamphetamine. There are many chemicals associated with marijuana; some are medicinal, and some are not. THC is a psychoactive substance found in marijuana and causes the “high” or hallucinations, paranoia and potential violent outbursts. What used to be 2-5% THC concentrations are now upwards of 70-90% levels in concentrates or oils. Yet, the most potent of all is the Crystalline THC or “Diamonds” with concentration levels of nearly 99.9%.
CBD is the non-psychoactive substance medically approved in Arizona to aid in anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation. There are so many other chemicals to learn and know… in facts and trends. Delta 8 and Delta 9 so sound so similar and are in effect; yet one is legal with the 2018 Farm Bill Act (Delta 8) and one is not (Delta 9).
Tobacco is flavored and hard to recognize
With thousands of flavors like Oreo Milkshake, Choco Donuts, Circus Cotton Candy and Unicorn Poop it is hard to detect the scent of new tobacco. It too, is used in vapes like Puff Bar, Phix, Suorin, Posh and JUUL. Youth use with these products is on the rise every year. 81% of kids who vape started with flavors. The new companies continue to market and target our kids. In a 2020 lawsuit, AZ accused Juul of using fruit-flavored liquid pods, social media campaigns and free giveaways to appeal to young customers, leading to a spike in addiction among teens. Arizona won and was the 2nd state in US to win a settlement of $14.5 million.
Cocaine is prevalent and use is on the rise. One of the biggest problems is the trend of the new “speedball” cocaine cut w fentanyl. 75.5% of all cocaine-related deaths involved one or more opioids in 2019.
Meth has a new recipe. The original synthetic drug now uses phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) instead of pseudoephedrine. The strength of the new meth deteriorates mental health quickly. People are decaying not dying. They experience intense hallucinations, memory loss, jumbled speech and may exhibit violent paranoia while being non communicative. Human connection is a large part of successful treatment and with this new meth many lack ability to connect with the severe side effects.
Heroin is powerful; its potency has been on the rise for decades, but now we are seeing most of heroin as a mixed drug with fentanyl. Plain heroin is on the decline while the stronger fentanyl mix is on the rise. Heroin may look like a pill, not just a powder. Again, you never know what you are getting.
Alcohol is still the teen drug of choice and it goes hand in hand with all the flavored vapes as alcohol too is mostly flavored and tempting to youth. Underage drinking is still the number one problem affecting American youth and young adults. It remains the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Sadly, 32% of underage drinking deaths are a result of traffic fatalities and 30% are a result of homicide. Talk to your kids. Delay the early use and be a strong voice and good listener.
We have an uphill battle when it comes to prevention and intervention. Culturally, many of the drugs are seen as “normal” or less harmful. Parents are condoning substances that they did in their teens or experimental years. We can NOT compare the substances of the past to todays though. There is no comparison. We are living in a time when potency has increased across the board. The formats are different and even the trends of use have changed. Think about it… no one was ever allowed to smoke a cigarette in school, nor are they still. However, vaping tobacco is happening daily on school campuses in bathrooms, classrooms and hallways with a quick hit hidden in the hand, sleeve of a shirt or top of a tank. In regards to format, the liquid form of nicotine is more potent with one pod being equivalent to a pack of cigarettes nicotine. Instead of ashing out with one cigarette, use is complete with one pod. Now, you see why the flavors are even more concerning… temptation of something that tastes good and looks harmless, yet ultimately is more dangerous in the developing body of a teen.
Ongoing education is key
This is just one example of why we need to be in the know. The drugs will continue to be here and continue to be a problem. Ongoing education is key. Prioritizing these conversations with loved ones is imperative. If these last few years of living through a pandemic that enhanced feelings of fear, isolation, anxiety and depression didn’t teach us that life is precious; I don’t know what can. Time is something you can’t put a value on. Spend your time wisely with loved ones doing things that matter.
No matter what 2022 throws our way… let’s just make everyday matter, because it really does.
Stephanie Siete is the Public Information Officer for Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI).
Stephanie is an expert prevention trainer on drug trends and community resources spending the majority of her time educating the public about the realities of drug abuse.
Learn more at communitybridgesaz.org