At least 220 people succumbed to a fatal overdose from fentanyl in 2016 on Long Island, according to records provided by medical examiners in both Nassau and Suffolk County – the two counties that make up the island. This number surpasses the previously reported numbers associated with heroin deaths in the two counties.
New York City is expected to experience over 1,000 drug overdoses in 2017, which is the first time the area has ever projected numbers into the quadruple digits in the history of the city. Long Island is just the latest area in a long-standing pattern of areas that are quickly succumbing to the effects of fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that is 100 times more powerful than morphine, and the reason why it is so popular is because it is much cheaper and easier to manufacture in a lab than heroin. Fentanyl received an extra amount of attention in 2016 after it claimed the life of legendary pop musician Prince back in April.
Sadly, according to statistics presented by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, about half of all unintentional drug overdose-related deaths in New York City since July of 2016 have involved fentanyl in some form or another. This is because people think they're getting heroin or OxyContin, but in fact, they are taking something that is infinitely stronger.
Suffolk County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael J. Caplan said, in a written statement, that "the influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl from overseas is a nationwide issue that requires a multidisciplinary intervention from all levels of government."
Looking at the numbers across the board, the total number of recorded deaths that were related to opioids were over 30,000 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and overdoses from synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased over 72 percent since 2014. This is one of the highest year-over-year increases for any drug in U.S. history.
It's hard to believe that just three years ago, barely anyone had even heard of fentanyl. This includes those working in the medical profession and in law enforcement – folks who would otherwise be seeing this stuff every day. But this was also when fentanyl was being given to patients via prescription as a form of pain management, and it would only be taken in super-small amounts administered via transdermal patches or lozenges.
Drug dealers have been lacing heroin with fentanyl for years, though, adding just enough of it to packets of heroin to save on the amount of heroin they need to produce. However, this is often done without the user's knowledge, and when he takes a copious amount of what he thinks is heroin, he is, in fact, taking copious amounts of the incredibly deadly fentanyl along with it.
However, some users know the dangers of fentanyl and seek it out anyway. This is because not only are they looking for an even stronger high, but they also seek the thrill of using a product that has been deemed even more dangerous than the stuff they were using before.