WASHINGTON — Faced with growing numbers of opioid-related overdoses and deaths, Maryland’s governor declared a state of emergency and Virginia declared a public health emergency because of the crisis.
But drug dealers continue to sell forms of illegal opioids that are even more powerful, deadly and cheaper — and resistant to a key anti-overdose medication that’s been credited with saving lives.
The street dealers are peddling deadly drug mixtures using illegally made fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is a painkiller that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more powerful according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Also a new addition on the street drug market is carfentanil which is also a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. It is used to sedate large animals such as elephants.
Fredericksburg.com reports not only are these newer drug mixtures causing more overdoses but they are rendering an overdose reversal drug Narcan ineffective. In some cases more than one dose of Narcan is needed and in other cases no amount of Narcan can save the victim’s life.
The new drug mixtures are so potent that first responders have to be careful so they do not get sick or even die since the drug mixtures can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.
The drug dealers are also selling heroin and cocaine mixed with fentanyl.
The opioid crisis is real in Virginia. In April, the Virginia Department of Health released its latest quarterly report showing out of an estimated 1,420 drug-related deaths in 2016 in Virginia 1,133 were opioid-related.
The Virginia Health Department reports that in 2016 Fauquier, Culpeper, Orange and Westmoreland counties had some of the highest number of fentanyl deaths in state.
About 94 percent of fentanyl deaths in 2016 were from illegally made fentanyl in Virginia according to the state health department. Fentanyl-related deaths shot up 174 percent from 2015 to 2016.