More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020). According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), almost 32 million people were actively using drugs as of 2021, with marijuana, prescription stimulants, and methamphetamines as the most popular drugs of choice. Add alcohol and tobacco use, and more than 60% of the United States population actively uses some form of substance. Drug use can affect the users, as well as their loved ones and society. Drug overdose costs the country more than $740 billion each year in lost work, health care, and drug-related crimes. Many factors have contributed to the rise in drug use in America, one of which is illegal narcotics are being manufactured to be more addictive and more deadly than even a few years ago.
Increase in Drug Use
There is no single cause for the increasing rates of drug usage in the United States. Substance use and abuse are becoming more normalized in larger American culture. Drug use is commonly seen in movies, music videos, social media, and media in general. Drinking and drug use are often portrayed as an acceptable way to socialize or a normal part of everyday life. Young people and adults who don’t have strong coping skills to safeguard their mental health may turn to substance use to deal with the stressors around them. Substances may provide temporary respite from reality but, are not sustainable practices to help a person manage life situations. In addition, the legalization of recreational marijuana (cannabis) in many states has made drug use more openly acceptable. Thus, many do not see cannabis as an addictive or harmful substance. However, some people consider marijuana to be a gateway drug thus, adding fear that increased use of cannabis will lead to the increased use of other drugs. People buying marijuana or any drugs from an illegal source will risk the product being laced with fentanyl or other narcotics to increase the user’s addiction and become repeat customers. This translates to underinsured or uninsured individuals who may have pain and seek out real pharmaceutical pills on the internet to receive a counterfeited pill with fentanyl. Visually, counterfeit, and pharmaceutical pills are identical, buying from reputable sources or laboratory testing are the only ways to confirm 100% if a medication is authentic. Fake pills are made to look like OxyContin, Xanax, Adderall, and other pharmaceuticals. These fake pills contain no legitimate medicine. Fentanyl is also made in a rainbow of colors, so it looks like candy. DEA lab testing reveals that four out of every ten fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.
Currently, our nation is facing an Adderall shortage which may impact our members. Data from the analytics and research company IQVIA shows that the demand for Adderall has risen nearly 27% in recent years, with prescriptions jumping from 35.5 million in 2019 to 45 million in 2020. This shortage is estimated to leave many without Adderall in March 2023. If members are on Adderall advice, they speak with their doctor as seeking alternatives. Buying drugs online can result in long-term health impacts or even death as fake pills contain no legitimate medicine.
How would my child get illegal drugs?
Incessant pop-ups or spam emails advertising cheap drugs for sale online are growing more prevalent. Internet searches as simple as “how to find a drug dealer” or “how to buy drugs online” can turn up content that guides people in the wrong direction. Many web pages that seem legitimate may be fronts for selling illegal substances and are available to anyone, anywhere in the world. Many of these so-called pharmacies are not based in the United States, so they are not subject to American governance. People can go online and order any number of prescription medications and have them shipped in discreet packaging. Buying medications from these illegal online pharmacies is very dangerous. In benign cases, businesses might simply be providing sugar pills. In more serious cases, these medications may contain highly toxic or even deadly substances. Additionally, there is no quality control to guarantee the actual dosage of a medication purchased through these retailers, making an overdose a very real possibility. Additionally, teens can often find substances they can use to get high right in their own homes. The medicine and liquor cabinets at home are frequently the targets of teens who either abuse drugs or alcohol themselves or sell them to other students at school. The CDC reports that 22% of all high school students say that they have been sold, given, or offered drugs on school property.
Opioids activate certain parts of the brain and are extremely addictive. Continues addictive use is often related to a switch from seeking pleasure to avoiding the discomfort of withdrawal. The rise of drug addiction has been on the rise, and according to the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Administration), fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered. Fentanyl is accessible everywhere, from large city areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison. Fentanyl has been claiming lives more than ever. This drug is highly addicting and is being used to attract more buyers and because of its potent effect, it is being mixed with other drugs. Fentanyl deaths alone are up 540% in the last three years. Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that is being pressed into fake pills or cut into heroin, cocaine, and other street drugs to drive addiction. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin.
Tips for Parents and Caregivers
- Encourage open and honest communication
- Explain why fentanyl and other illegal drugs are dangerous
- Stress not to take any pills that were not prescribed to you by a doctor
- No pill purchased on social media is safe
- Make sure they know fentanyl has been found in most illegal drugs
- Create an “exit plan” to help your child know what to do if they’re pressured to take a pill or use drugs
- The drug potency is dramatically different, even from just a few years ago.
- All parents and caregivers need to be educated on current drug threats to be able to have informed talks with their kids.
Reputable Information Sources
For other statewide resources (food banks, housing, financial assistance, internet, etc.), visit:
https://arizonatogether.org/. Please feel free to share this information.
Writer: Edna Keefer and Maya Bakerman