In 2020, 91,799 fatal overdose deaths were reported in the United States. Of this number, more than 75% of these drug-related fatalities are attributed to an opioid overdose¹.
Opioids are a class of drugs originally developed to be used as pain management medication. Morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and fentanyl are examples of powerful opioids used in hospitals and hospices for patient care or provided as a take-home prescription drug. However today when many across the United States hear the term “opioids” they think of addiction, overdose, and a crisis that has been steadily growing in this country for more than 3 decades.
In 2020, Virginia ranked 26th in total number of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S². Like most other states, Virginia is seeing a rise in opioid- related deaths attributed to the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is 50-100x more potent than morphine. More than 90% of the opioid-related deaths in Virginia in 2021 were caused by fentanyl³.
This stark uptick in fentanyl-related deaths is a major concern for the Shenandoah Valley area for a number of reasons. One factor causing concern is our community’s proximity to the 5 states with the highest rate of opioid related deaths: West Virginia, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky⁴. Along with our proximity to these “hot spots” of the opioid epidemic there are additional local concerns related to fentanyl. Fentanyl is extremely potent and often found mixed into other drugs – like MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, and meth. The major concern is how fentanyl laced drugs could find their way into unknowing hands in our community and begin an upsurge in opioid overdoses and deaths.
Tips For Opioid Overdose Prevention
In 2021, there were 7 reported opioid-related overdose deaths in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area⁵. And while these numbers are low by comparison with other surrounding areas, there is still a need to be vigilant and aware of opioid use prevention and safety resources.
TIP #1: Talk to your children and family about opioids. Discuss how powerful opioids like fentanyl can be mixed with other drugs without the user knowing.
TIP #2: Participate in a local REVIVE! Training. Learn how to recognize and how to use Narcan to respond to an opioid overdose. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to hear about upcoming trainings.
TIP #3: Concerned about fentanyl? Learn more about fentanyl test strips HERE or contact us at email@example.com to learn more about local availability of fentanyl test strips.
¹ National Institute on Drug Abuse. January 2022. https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-Death-rates
² Opioid Overdose Death Rates and All Drug Overdose Death Rates per 100,000 Population. https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/opioid-overdose-death-rates/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D
³ Virginia Department of Health, Forensic Epidemiology, “Fatal Drug Overdose Trends”,