By Xavier Kataquapit
I am hearing way too often about wonderful young people right up here in Northern Ontario passing away because they took a drug that was so powerful they had no way of knowing it would easily kill them. All kinds of drugs have been doing that over the past decade or so with the opioid epidemic and lately, with the arrival of fentanyl, many more young people are dying.
Fentanyl, which started out as a prescription medication, is now illegally produced in many parts of the world mainly in China and Mexico. It has lots of street names including China town, murder 8, poison, TNT, cash, China white, China girl and Apache. It is an extremely powerful opioid created for pain management. Not only is it really powerful but it is really toxic also. People most of the time have no idea how easily they can overdose with this drug.
It can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine and up to 40 times stronger than heroin. It is often mixed with these drugs and also with cocaine and made into a powder, liquid or pill. Young people or anyone for that matter who is into partying and taking risks like this drug because it provides a high very quickly. When it is mixed with other drugs it becomes very dangerous and even a little amount can kill. It kills by stopping the respiratory system.
It is so toxic that anyone dealing with an overdose victim is advised not to perform full CPR as the drug can harm or kill the responder on site. When it is suspected that fentanyl was present in a room or vehicle often that area will be quarantined and cleaned up because even small amounts of this drug can kill. It has become known as a killer drug because even a tiny amount of it can be fatal.
Thousands, not hundreds, but thousands of people are dying of fentanyl overdoses every year in Canada and many medical and addiction specialists believe we are in the midst of an epidemic. Reports show that anyone who is young and experimental or a person wanting to party can end up dead taking this drug. Most of those who take it are unsuspecting and naive and in many ways are what we consider as normal, gainfully employed and not necessarily having a criminal record.
There has been a recent history of pharmaceutical companies pushing new opioid drugs into the market as pain killers and although some of this was directed to patients in the medical system requiring substantial pain relief it was often too easily prescribed and resulted in terrible addictions.
People did not realize that when they had a tooth pulled and got a prescription for opioids like OxyContin they could end up being addicts and their entire lives turned upside down. Just to give you an idea of how much money is involved in the legal prescription profits of OxyContin, consider that the drug company Purdue earned more than 35 billion US dollars in 2017 alone. OxyContin of course also found its way onto the street and thousands of lives have been ruined because of it.
There is no stigma attached to those dying of fentanyl or any other opioid use as they are mostly regular people who wander into situations because of partying and risk taking for the most part. Some are dealing with mental illness and chronic addiction problems but mostly those dying are a normal representation of our society.
In the Native community, the small sized doses and easy transportation and smuggling of these drugs make it far too easy to move them into northern remote communities. The ease of access, the ease of transport and the highly addictive quality of these drugs are devastating Native communities.
We all have to work a little harder at educating our young people about the dangers of drug abuse and addictions. The so called war on drugs has a history of not working and only ends up criminalizing people who are already helpless and throwing them in jail.
We have to look at continued criminalization of the drug dealers and producers but change our attitude in dealing with the addicts and users. They need to be cared for and directed towards a healthier lifestyle and with hope. We also have to make sure the huge pharmaceuticals who are responsible for pushing these drugs onto the market are regulated to a higher degree and the same goes for our medical professionals who have been prescribing these terrible drugs far too easily.
I had a hard enough time making it through all of the addiction obstacles I ran into as a teenager in the 1990s and I know very well that today being a teen is way more difficult. You can end up dead just for ingesting some small amount of a drug at a party. That is unacceptable.