Fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is roughly 50 times more potent than heroin, is being mixed in with cocaine and causing a rise in overdose deaths. This widespread issue is being blamed for deaths from Ohio to Florida. According to the New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH), fentanyl is causing a rise in overdose deaths of occasional users who likely have no idea that they’ve ingested the painkiller in the first place.
Since cocaine is largely considered a social drug, officials fear users are largely unaware of the potential risks of fentanyl overdose when using the substance. Fentanyl is easy to make, so drug dealers looking to spike their drugs or make other counterfeit drugs are using it more often. These drugs are sold to people who think they are just cocaine, and the results are just plain scary. Even just a few milligrams of fentanyl is enough to vastly increase the overdose risk for any user. To put it in perspective, the equivalent of a few grams of table salt could cause an overdose. Opioid painkillers can slow your heart rate and stop breathing, which is why they carry a high risk compared to other drugs.
In Florida alone, cocaine-related deaths have doubled since 2012 and claimed more lives in 2016 than any other drug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates cocaine overdose deaths increased from roughly 4,000 in 2009 to more than 6,700 in 2015. Officials say cocaine overdose deaths are about to explode in 2017 to nearly 11,000. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.