Fentanyl is a dangerous addition to the war on drugs. Similar to many other substances that are abused, fentanyl can be prescribed legally as a pain-killer.
This creates a conflict of morale—is it unethical to prescribe a drug that is easily addictive, even if it can treat pain? Pain-killers in general are the strongest gateway to substance abuse.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that exceeds the strength of morphine by 80 to 100 times. This is dangerous enough on its own but has also been combined with other opioids to create more of a rush. This high, however, quickly turns fatal.
Well-known deaths from fentanyl include Prince, Lil Peep, Paul Janssen, and Tom Petty. Fentanyl awareness was raised again recently in media with the death of Mac Miller, a 26-year old rapper and Arianna Grande’s ex-boyfriend. He passed away on Sept. 7th of this year. The cause of his overdose was the deadly mixture of fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol.
Alcohol and fentanyl are a very harmful combination on their own, as alcohol is a depressant. Fentanyl and alcohol together can relax the central nervous system of the body to the extent that the user stops breathing.
The cocaine creates a rush and a distraction from the effects, so the user can be unaware that they are in danger.
It is very sad and too prevalent that a celebrity dies at a young age from substance abuse. The only consolation is that awareness can be raised about a dangerous substance, which may lead to less fatalities from it in the future.
Media caused by Miller’s death also brought attention to a lesser examined factor in drug abuse, which is romantic partners and loved ones being blamed for the substance user’s addiction.
This is different from situations where the romantic partner is directly to blame for the addiction, as many female users did get roped in to addiction by a male partner who became addicted. The unfortunate pattern is that the male romantic partner becomes addicted and then treats their girlfriend/wife as collateral damage by getting her addicted as well without her knowledge, typically done by sneaking the drugs in their food.
In the case of Arianna Grande and Mac Miller, Miller used substances throughout their relationship, which was a factor in why they broke up. Grande was criticized for “abandoning” him by leaving the relationship. Media also blamed her for what they perceived as Miller’s downward spiral that led him to overdose, as she had started a new relationship soon after the breakup and became engaged very quickly.
Most of the pressure to keep Miller healthy and sober was placed on Grande, which is extremely unfair, as Grande is not trained in drug treatment.
This is the same for any loved ones of family of those who have passed away from a drug overdose. They shouldn’t be the cause of condemnation, the accessibility of the deadly drug and the person who directly provided them with it should be.
The media blaming Grande also distracted from the much larger problem of the growing presence of the substance itself in the drug world.
Since fentanyl does produce a stronger high, some opioid users knowingly use heroin cut with fentanyl, but for some, they are unaware that the drug they are using contains any fentanyl. Due to the strength of fentanyl, even small amounts create a large risk for an overdose.
Illicit drug use is undesirable, but more of the blame and stigma should be centered around recreational distributors and sellers of the drug, rather than the addicted users.
Many drug users have environmental factors, such as a history of victimization and trauma that have led them to block out pain with drugs.
Dealers on the other hand, keep supplying them and financially benefitting from their addiction. Some drug dealers are even worse than the norm, as they mix in fentanyl with heroin, cocaine, and other commonly abused drugs, and sell it off to unknowing customers.
Their logic is likely that they have created a very potent drug, and if their customers don’t overdose, they are likely to come back for more. Hence, more of a profit for the dealer. Overdose is much more likely when the user is unaware that there is fentanyl present.
It is very difficult to detect if drugs have been laced with fentanyl, which increases the danger. Since it’s unlikely for dealers to agree to the regulation of their supply, law enforcement can fight against fentanyl by thoroughly investigating and detaining a dealer who is rumored to be lacing their products.
Legal charges with more weight should also be imposed on those who have dealt fentanyl, especially if what they sold caused a death of a user.
The lives of those who use illicit drugs matter, as they are still fellow humans. The dangers of fentanyl shouldn’t be brushed to the side just because they mainly impact those who already are substance abusers.