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Fentanyl: one culprit in the opioid epidemic


While the nation nervously watches the opioid epidemic seize the lives of thousands of Americans, another drug has quietly entered the scene. Fentanyl, a narcotic used to treat severe pain, has recently made headlining news with its high risk for dependency and overdoses. While various programs, including those in Virginia, have worked to reduce the number of overdoses and deaths due to a number of drugs, the issues surrounding fentanyl continue to accumulate. State officials are now considering the best strategies to address this crippling issue.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch acknowledges the widespread problem of fentanyl, especially in the state of Virginia. In fact, the Dispatch shares that the drug is now the top killer in the state, having caused 618 deaths in 2016 alone. The Dispatch highlights the unfortunate trend that illegal opioids have caused more deaths than legal opioids in recent years. Some experts point toward the primary factor that fans the flame: money. Countless users have recognized the financial gain from including fentanyl in the heroin they sell, thus maximizing the problem — especially to those relatively new to the drug and inexperienced with heroin in general.

The Washington Post is another outlet to recognize fentanyl and its harmful effects. Noting that the number of fatal overdoses in Virginia has increased 38 percent between the years 2015 and 2016, the Post shows that fentanyl has surpassed this bleak statistic. State health officials largely agree that the issue will worsen before it shows any sign of change, and stress the concern over another (even more powerful) drug called carfentanil that can often be found laced in heroin. Yet the deadly mix of heroin and fentanyl prove to be the biggest culprit in overdoses, as the Post also shows that most users are unaware they are using this combination when buying heroin from individual dealers.   

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