Record-breaking death by overdose
Canada and the U.S are dealing with two crises currently. One being in the spotlight is the well-known coronavirus pandemic which has been spread throughout the globe. And the second lesser-known epidemic that has been ravaging both countries is the fentanyl crisis. Responsible for many deaths, the numbers are only going higher as the rate of overdose death skyrockets.
Fentanyl is a drug that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Making a minuscule amount of 2 mg enough to cause an overdose. Doctors would prescribe this potent pain-killer to patients with severe pain, but now this synthetic opioid has spilt out into the streets, being illegally distributed.
Western Canada suffers greatly from this predicament. The Canadian government stated that a total of 1,288 fentanyl-related deaths have occurred in 2020. Switching over to the U.S, rural areas are the most impacted by this crisis. For example, the state of West Virginia has the highest opioid-related deaths with a rate of 42.4% per 100,000 people in 2018.
Coronavirus deepening the fentanyl crisis
The coronavirus hasn’t been making things any better, in fact, it’s worsening the fentanyl crisis. Overdose deaths have skyrocketed during the course of the pandemic, with 81,000 overdoses occurring in 2020 in the United States. The highest number of overdoses recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Canada on the other hand is no better, especially British Columbia, with officials reporting overdose deaths jumping up to a 74% increase from 2019.
In addition, the public’s attention is all on the pandemic. Health care workers are overwhelmed with ICU’s being at full capacity and cash is being diverted from addiction treatment programs. Help is out of reach for people with opioid addictions. Moreover, the pandemic has disrupted the drug supply chain. Drug prices have increased and drugs are now hard to come by. Many drug suppliers have resorted to lacing fentanyl into their supply since it is cheaper for them. Taking into account that, people are turning to more unknown suppliers and with many places being restricted (such as public washrooms). Many are taking their drugs out in the public, rushing and neglecting to get them tested.
With the fentanyl crisis falling into obscurity and being overshadowed by the coronavirus. It seems like overdose-related deaths will continue to skyrocket. The coronavirus may have a cure with the vaccines rolling in but drug addiction does not. This hidden epidemic will be more challenging to overcome.