National Fentanyl Awareness Day Highlights the Recent Surge in Opioid-related Deaths

Lab assistant analyzing medication capsules, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, study

In response to the ongoing opioid crisis, the US Senate this year introduced a resolution designating May 10, 2022, as National Fentanyl Awareness Day. The move highlights the increasing danger fentanyl and other dangerous synthetic opioids pose to public health, and it stresses the importance of keeping these opioid sellers off social media and e-commerce ecosystems.

According to the resolution, the number of fentanyl-laden pills seized by law enforcement agencies has increased by more than 500% since 2019, totalling more than 9.5 million pills. This exceeds the total number of seizures for the previous two years combined. From November 2020 to October 2021, more than 105,000 people in the US died of drug-induced deaths. Of those, 69,000 deaths (nearly two-thirds) involved illicit fentanyl.

Fentanyl is about 50 times stronger than heroin, which means that even a small dose can be lethal. Illicitly produced fentanyl poses a number of potential dangers, according to the National Fentanyl Awareness Day facts page. Advocates state that any “prescription” pill a person obtains outside of a pharmacy or doctor’s office, or any powder-form drugs purchased from someone outside legal distribution channels, is at risk of containing a lethal dose of fentanyl. Opposed to medical fentanyl, illegally made fentanyl may be manufactured in unsanitary conditions, and it often varies greatly in dosage and potency.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who led the resolution with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), highlighted the danger of online sales of fentanyl, which is cheap to produce and is often made to look like prescription name-brand opioids or stimulants.

“Fentanyl has poisoned the streets of our communities, including through counterfeit pills that are made to look like prescription drugs,” Grassley said in a statement. “These fake pills are often sold on social media or other online platforms to teenagers and young adults, which has worsened the substance abuse crisis. By joining our effort to raise awareness, law enforcement officers, parents and educators across the country can take proactive steps to get illicit counterfeit pills off the streets and help save lives.”

Many internet companies — including Google, TikTok, YouTube, Meta, and Snapchat — have partnered with National Fentanyl Awareness Day to share information on social media about this critical problem and raise awareness of the danger of counterfeit pills. These private partnerships, as well as the efforts by leading nonprofits in drug and alcohol addiction, demonstrate the importance of a diverse, multifaceted collaboration in helping to curb the illicit fentanyl problem and save lives.

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