Chicago’s Rising Fentanyl Problem: A Randox Toxicology Report
Chicago’s Rising Fentanyl Problem: A Randox Toxicology Report
Abuse of opioids, and in particular, fentanyl, has been on the rise in the United States in recent years. The number of patients being prescribed painkillers has almost quadrupled since the 90s from 76 million to 289 million in 2016. It has been described as a uniquely American problem, where pain relief prescriptions are about 40% higher than other developed countries.
Inevitably due to the high addiction rate of opioids, this has unfortunately led to increasing overdose deaths. In 2017 alone over 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in the USA with opioids being involved in 67.8% of cases.
Chicago Illinois is no exception to this crisis. The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that Illinois has a rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 people from opioid overdoses, compared to the national average of 14.6. It is not only prescription painkillers that are adding to the opioid addiction crisis in Chicago, but substances such as fentanyl that is illegally sold on the street.
Fentanyl is a cheaper, synthetic opioid which can be 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is commonly added to heroin to increase strength and cut costs. Many users believe they are purchasing heroin when in fact it can be mostly fentanyl, resulting in rising overdose deaths. The DEA’s Chicago lab have stated that the drug is making up a more of their workload than ever and becoming a regular drug they see.
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In the turn of the new year, we look at the current trends in drug abuse in 3 key continents and what their key 2018 figures say about drug use in their countries.
New psychoactive substances have been an emerging drug market in the Americas, with a total of 130 different new psychoactive substances being reported in seven South American countries in August 2017. This was more than a 50% increase within the year, as over 60 different substances had been reported in 2016 alone, according to the OAS and CICAD Report on Drug Use in The Americas 2019. Latin America have experienced a surge in LSD, synthetic cannabinoid, plant substance and ketamine use among the general population as well.
Meanwhile, opioids and prescription opioids have been a major cause for concern in the Americas, with opioid analgesics involved in more overdose fatalities than any type of illicit drug, exceeding cocaine and heroin-related fatalities in Canada and USA combined. Users are increasingly turning to street opioids as well, which are often mixed with heroin and other drugs. The major challenge noted in the same report is the complexity of the appearance of NPS and the counterfeit substances it contains.
Cannabis has had the highest use among males, with most cases being regular patterns of use. Around 1% of European adults are considered daily users according to the European Drug Report 2018. Regarding opioids, heroin is the most common drug of abuse in this category, and prevalence of high risk opioid use among adults is estimated to be at 0.4% of the EU population.
Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are growing in use in Europe. In 2016, over 18 European countries reported more than 10% of all opioid clients entering specialised services suffering from opioid addiction other than heroin.
Opioids present the largest drug problem in Asia, having the highest proportion of causes of drug users going to treatment centres, followed by amphetamine-type stimulants and cannabis. Production of drug substances in Asia have been significant in the last 3 years, with cocaine and opium production hitting record highs. Methamphetamine is also an emerging threat to Asia, with production of the synthetic drug overtaking heroin.
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Global drug tests provider Randox Toxicology has today pledged its support for the PSNI in the fight against fentanyl, a strong painkiller which has been found for sale on the black market in Northern Ireland for the first time.
Fentanyl, which is an opioid pain medication currently classed as a controlled Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, has been found in heroin which was seized by the PSNI, and has been linked to two deaths in Northern Ireland this year.
It is currently used to safely treat patients with severe pain, as it can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. According to the National Crime Agency and Office for National Statistics however, 60 deaths in the UK in the past eight months have been attributed to misuse of fentanyl, which received international attention when the singer Prince was found to have died from a fentanyl overdose.
Dr. Peter FitzGerald, Founder and Managing Director of Randox Laboratories, commented;
“It is extremely worrying to hear that the PSNI have confirmed fentanyl has reached the black market in Northern Ireland. The illegal sale of the painkiller has long been an issue in the USA, with the country having at least two million opioid addicts, but until now has not been used illegally in NI.
“Fentanyl’s status as a painkiller is potentially why it is so commonly abused, as those using prescription painkillers may turn to illicit substances, such as fentanyl, when their prescriptions run out. With as little as 2mg able to cause an overdose, fentanyl is easily hidden and transported in small packages through the post, so poses a major danger to society. The drug has high abuse potential and is being used more and more by drug dealers who can sell fentanyl at a cheaper price than heroin.”
Randox Toxicology, a specialist division of FitzGerald’s Antrim-headquartered Randox Laboratories, has today issued a statement to pledge its commitment to removing the danger of fentanyl from Northern Ireland. The company’s significant investment in the research and development of new tests for drug detection has cemented its status at the forefront of the drugs screening industry. Randox Toxicology, which developed its first fentanyl test in 2007, has the world’s only tests for the designer opiates U-47700, MT-45 and AH-7921.
Dr. Joanne Darragh, Head of Research and Development at Randox Toxicology, commented;
“In the endless pursuit of creating innovative tests for new drugs which emerge weekly on to the market, our expertise at Randox Toxicology sets us apart from the rest of the industry. Not only have we been first to market with a number of opioid tests, but we have also developed our patented Biochip Array Technology, which enables us to simultaneously screen for both fentanyl and heroin, one of which may have been laced with the other.
“Today we pledge the support of our expertise, based on a decade’s worth of experience in developing fentanyl tests, to the PSNI in their efforts to remove the fentanyl threat from Northern Ireland. This is a problem that we must tackle together and we are confident that by highlighting this growing epidemic, we can educate communities on the devastating effects the misuse of fentanyl can have.”
For further information about Randox Toxicology’s fentanyl screrening please contact Randox PR on 028 9445 1016 or email RandoxPR@randox.com