Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is often used as a pain medication, but it can also be misused and lead to overdose. An overdose of fentanyl can be especially dangerous because it is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and can be fatal in very small doses.
In the United States, overdose deaths involving fentanyl have been on the rise in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (including fentanyl) more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, and the trend has continued since then. In 2019, more than 31,000 people died of an opioid overdose in the United States. A large number of these deaths were caused by fentanyl.
Overdose deaths from fentanyl and other opioids need a multifaceted approach that includes efforts to reduce the supply of illegal drugs, increase access to evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder, and increase the use of overdose prevention medicines like naloxone.
The number of people who passed away as a result of an overdose in the United States reached a new high last year, with an average of one fatality occurring every five minutes. Fentanyl is considered responsible for an alarming surge in the number of overdose fatalities among teenagers as well. CDC data shows the number of fatalities that occurred among teenagers up to 19 years old increased by 109% between 2019 and 2021. According to the report, the vast majority of those deaths—84%—involved fentanyl.
Illegal fentanyl is being produced in Mexico and then combined with counterfeit prescription pills such as Xanax and Adderall. The grieving families of children who died of overdoses have alleged that their loved ones procured counterfeit pills through social media apps like Snapchat, TikTok, etc., and have sought help from the National Crime Prevention Council.
The organization’s mission is to enable people to create safer and more caring communities by addressing the causes of crime, drugs, and violence and reducing the opportunities for crime to occur. The National Crime Prevention Council sent a letter last week, putting pressure on the Justice Department to crack down on the role that social media plays in the distribution of fentanyl.
While some of the families whose children bought counterfeit tablets through Snapchat have filed a lawsuit against the company in California, others believe the government should work with the companies to successfully prosecute the dealers instead of opening a corporate-level investigation.
Officials from Snapchat released a statement saying the company uses technology to identify and remove dealers and will continue to do everything in their power to tackle the national crisis and support police investigations. They also said the company has made substantial efforts to enhance the safety on the platform and has seen a decrease in the number of user reports regarding the sale of drugs, which went from over 23% in the previous year to 3.3% last month.