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Opioid Overdose: How To Respond & Prevent Death

When people take these drugs but aren’t aware that they contain fentanyl, they place themselves at risk of overdosing on a substance they didn’t even know they were taking. It may quickly reverse an opioid overdose, usually in a matter of minutes, but you may need to use more than one dose. It comes as an injection or is sprayed into the nose to rapidly block the effects of the opioid on the body. Some harm reduction workers also monitor people actively using drug use to help prevent fatal overdoses. Most offer abstinence-based care, which means people experiencing addiction can’t get help until they’re ready or able to stop taking drugs.

Opioid and substance use disorder resources

The characteristic feature of dependence is a strong internal drive to use opioids, which manifests itself by impaired ability to control use, increasing priority given to use over other activities and persistence of use despite harm or negative consequences. From 2021 to 2022, the rate for males increased while the rate for females decreased slightly, although the decrease for females was not significant. In both 2021 and 2022, adults ages 35–44 had the highest rate among people age 15 and older, and adults age 65 and older had the lowest.

How does fentanyl affect the brain?

A healthcare professional may prescribe medications such as buprenorphine and methadone, which affect the same receptors in the brain as those affected by fentanyl. A doctor may also choose to prescribe naltrexone, how long does fentanyl stay in your system which stops the effect fentanyl has on the body. Older people are more likely than younger individuals to experience adverse effects, especially the respiratory depressant effects of fentanyl.

What to Do If Someone Is Experiencing a Fentanyl Overdose

The vast majority of people reported their willingness to use rapid test strips to detect the presence of fentanyl in drugs or urine at home or utilize drug-checking services at supervised injection clinics47,48. A newly developed lateral flow immunoassay was also evaluated for effectiveness in the detection of fentanyl analogs53. The drug overdose crisis continues to evolve, and our response must be nimble and flexible to the changing situations in communities throughout our country. We know that public health thrives when the approach is comprehensive, coordinated, and can quickly adapt and respond to current and emerging needs.

U.S. drug overdose deaths hit a record in 2022 as some states see a big surge

Naloxone won’t harm someone2 if they’re overdosing on drugs other than opioids, so it’s always best to use it if you think someone is overdosing. People can also die from opioid overdose when they (knowingly or unknowingly) use an opioid in combination with another substance, such as a sedative or stimulant. In a hospital setting, healthcare providers order several tests to check for any complications. They may perform other forms of medical care other than naloxone, such as intubation to help with breathing.

fentanyl overdose

  • This program enables the implementation of innovations and promising strategies at the local level and is an essential source of funding for capacity-building that can increase readiness to participate in future funding opportunities aimed at local health departments.
  • While it’s true that the illicit use of fentanyl is a serious health concern in the United States, myths about fentanyl overdoses have been largely sensationalized.
  • One study showed that the majority of patients who were presumed to experience fentanyl overdose could be discharged after brief emergency room observation, thus unlikely requiring additional naloxone dosing in the emergency room108.
  • In a hospital setting, healthcare providers order several tests to check for any complications.
  • Despite the beneficial clinical anesthetic and pain-relieving effects of fentanyl, the frequent use of fentanyl primarily affects the central nervous system (CNS) and gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems and can cause several side effects54.

Thus, preventing exposure to these early adversities is an important step in reducing the risk for overdose and suicide, and many other health risk behaviors and health outcomes throughout the lifespan. Focusing on shared risk and protective factors at the individual, family, and community levels helps to create safe, supportive, and nurturing relationships and environments and reduces these risks. Upstream prevention of ACEs and other violence and adversity among children and youth can have a profound impact on the trajectory of substance use, overdose, and mental health in the United States.

Fentanyl Overdose: Symptoms, Dangers, and Treatment

fentanyl overdose

Put another way, you have a much shorter window of time to intervene and save a person’s life during a fentanyl overdose than a heroin overdose, said Jermaine Jones, a behavioral neuroscientist who studies substance use disorders at Columbia University. It works by blocking the effects of opioids and can restore normal breathing within 2-3 minutes. Naloxone can also be used to help people overdosing on drugs other than opioids. Another reason for the high proportion of fentanyl overdoses is that fentanyl is commonly mixed in with other illegal drugs.

Can naloxone reverse a fentanyl overdose?

The treatment of these mental disorders may help prevent fentanyl-related fatalities and achieve abstinence. Finally, focusing on preventing substance use in the first place is a core component of CDC’s work and the long-term solution to reversing the decades-long overdose crisis. Research shows that ACEs are strongly linked to increased risk for substance use, including increased risk for prescription opioid misuse, opioid injection, cocaine and amphetamine use and use disorder, and earlier age of initiation for these substances. Additionally, losing a loved one to overdose or suicide are themselves ACEs that can increase the risk of overdose or suicide in the future.

Democratic and Republican politicians have promised to stop or sharply curtail fentanyl smuggling from the Mexico into the U.S., but analysts tell NPR no one has proposed a plan that would accomplish that goal. But many say they’ve been unfairly blamed for a drug epidemic that has spiraled out of control. They argue that destigmatizing drug use “is a profoundly mistaken approach” that fails to encourage users to seek full recovery.

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