Synthetic Opioids Are Proving to Be More Deadly than Prescription Opioids
Despite this sudden rise, law enforcement and medical professionals still look to combat the problem as a whole
FARGO, N.D. — For the past few years, opioid addiction has been a major issue in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
But now, some more potent opioids have emerged on the scene.
“Fentanyl is a hundred times as potent as morphine, and then there are some derivatives like carfentanil which has been around and can be obtained as hundred times as powerful as fentanyl, so it’s 10,000 times as powerful as morphine,” said Dr. John Baird, a Health Officer at Fargo Cass Public Health.
And these new concoctions are even dangerous to simply touch.
“If there’s a little in the air, you can get it into your nose, or some of it could even be absorbed through the skin, and it wouldn’t take much for it to absorb into someone’s skin and kill someone,” said Baird.
But these synthetic opioids are becoming deadlier than those prescribed by doctors. The Journal of the American Medical Association released a study that 46% of the opioid-related deaths in America were caused by lab-made opioids.
Since 2016, the Cass County Coroner says that just around half the drug-related deaths in the county were caused by opioids.
“Someone is using a substance, they don’t quite know what it is, they don’t know where it was manufactured, what the quality is, what’s in it, and if it has a little bit of fentanyl in it, it can be extremely deadly,” said Baird.
With more than 50 opioid-related deaths in Cass County since 2016, law enforcement agencies across the county have teamed up to stop the epidemic from further crippling the community.
“The main thing we’re doing is collaboration and communication. Just talking with each other, sharing information, working together as a team, we’re all together in this metro community and we need to combat this as one group,” said Assistant Chief Jerry Boyer of the West Fargo Police Department.
One initiative that Boyer and the West Fargo Police Department has taken up is the collection of unused prescriptions during Cleanup Week.
“Any chance that we can get some extra pills or any other medications off the street that can fall into the wrong hands of somebody, whether it’s a loved one with an addiction problem or a child by accident, anytime if we can get even one dose off the street, that’s going to help,” said Boyer.
Fargo Cass Public Health has also done its part to help curb the epidemic by providing law enforcement and schools with Narcan, which can reverse the effects of opioids if an overdose is on the horizon.
“It’s very easy to use, but that person still needs to receive medical treatment, so Narcan may temporarily ease the issue that’s occurring, but they still need to get that medical attention,” said Boyer.
And even for those still looking for help to overcome addiction, many different organizations, like ShareHouse in Fargo, have the tools to help people down the path for recovery.
“Somebody could live a completely healthy life in recovery as they’re kind of going through that, and so I think a big part of that is being able to help that individual see what that life looks like,” said Shauna Eberhardt, the Director of Clinical Services at ShareHouse.
But even with all the strides made in the metro, there’s still work to be done.
“It’s not something that we can arrest everybody who’s using opioids or we can’t stop the supply totally, so it depends a lot on individuals and supporting those individuals, their families and friends, and doing what we can to give people some help,” said Baird.
There have been nine drug-related deaths in Cass County this year, three of which were caused by opioids.