What are Opioids?
Virginia is currently experiencing an increase in opioid related overdoses with an average of 4 Virginia’s dying from an opioid overdose every day. Opioids are a class of drug that include heroin, synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl), and prescription pain relievers such as morphine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), or oxycodone (Percocet). Opioids are prescribed to aid with pain management; however, they have a high risk of being misused. As of 2020, the impact of the opioid crisis in Virginia cost around $3.5 billion annually. Unfortunately, in Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County there were 9 deaths due to opioids in 2021.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a type of synthetic opioid that has an extremely high potency and can be very dangerous if misused. Fentanyl is commonly used for pain management and typically administered under the care of a doctor. Common street names for fentanyl include Apache, China Girl, China White, Poison, and Dance Fever. Fentanyl is about 50x the strength of heroin and 100x the strength of morphine – as little as 2 milligrams of fentanyl to cause a fatal overdose. There are many different reasons why fentanyl has become more prominent in communities across the United States. These reasons include:
- Easy and cheap to produce: Fentanyl is extremely cheap and requires less effort to produce and it’s very strong – this makes it more popular for drug suppliers and users
- Mixing of drugs: Fentanyl can be discreetly mixed into other drugs to “improve” their effects – such as MDMA, cocaine, or less potent opioids. It has become common for drug users to unknowingly take fentanyl because it is mixed in another substance.
Statistics have indicated that in 2020 there were 42,687 overdose deaths in America due to fentanyl. In Virginia, 91% of fatal opioid overdoses involved fentanyl or another synthetic opioid. This is why we need to be more knowledgeable about opioids, their effects, and the how respond to an opioid-related emergency.
Education and Initiatives in the Community
So what can our community do to help combat the opioid crisis?
One strategy is increasing knowledge about opioids by participating in trainings such as REVIVE. REVIVE is Virginia’s Opioid Overdose and Education training that is free to attend! REVIVE trains community members on how to respond and administer naloxone (Narcan) to reverse an opioid overdose. REVIVE will also teaches the VA state laws and protection associated with overdose response and where to access naloxone in the community. Naloxone, typically known by brand name “Narcan”, is the only drug that can reverse an opioid overdose. Since 2018, 11,391 Virginian lives have been saved by naloxone.
Fentanyl test strips are also available in our community as a harm reduction strategy. Fentanyl test strips can be to test drugs for the presence of fentanyl. These strips act like standard drug testing strips but specifically work to identify if fentanyl has been mixed into another substance. These strips do not tell you how much fentanyl is in the drug. Fentanyl test strips have been found to lead to safer drug use behavior and have helped prevent opioid overdoses due to fentanyl.
Contact email@example.com to learn more about REVIVE Trainings, accessing fentanyl test strips, and other initiatives related to combating the opioid crisis!
SEOW Fentanyl Brief Virginia+SEOW+Fentanyl+Brief.pdf
SEOW Opioid Brief Virginia+Opioid+Infographic_Oct+2022.pdf
DEA Fentanyl Fact Sheet Fentanyl (dea.gov)