Elephant Tranquilizers to Blame in Michigan Overdose Spike

The new heroin

Elephant tranquilizers were the new heroin almost two years ago after carfentanil found its way onto city streets and started causing mass overdoses all over the country. It was hard to believe that actual elephant tranquilizers were not only being mixed into heroin and other drugs but that addicts were deliberately seeking it out at overdose “hot spots,” or traps were users were dying from the potent chemicals. It’s a strange syndrome among opioid users where they will go to the areas selling killer dope to get the most for their money. Carfentanil seemed to have come and gone and we haven’t heard much about it since, until recently.

In Wayne County, Michigan, there has been an eight-month spike in opioid-related deaths, and it seems to be attributed to carfentanil making its rounds, yet again. Researches have recently found the drug to be present in nearly 27% of opioid overdose deaths from July 2016 and February of 2017. They looked at data from toxicology reports from about 645 overdose deaths and determined 114 of them were due to carfentanil overdose but saw an immediate drop in deaths immediately following. Another interesting fact is that cocaine was found in 29 % of the carfentanil deaths, meaning the drug was being mixed into more than just heroin.

Dr. Andrew King, a professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and lead author of the study said, “Fentanyl has almost become a universal thing throughout the heroin supply, at least in the Midwest and the East Coast.”

Since the outbreak, emergency departments in Wayne County have prioritized and increase access to Narcan to reverse potentially lethal overdoses according to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the health department's director. She said the department “will continue to expand efforts in 2019 to connect people to treatment and address stigma associated with addiction."

drug addicted

Carfentanil is just one of the many fentanyl analogs that exist out there. Because they’re so cheap and easily slipped into existing drugs, dealers are just hooking and killing addicts by the boatloads. Unfortunately, drug use continues to be pervasive in the United States, and as long as the end user demands strong drugs, there’s going to be a supplier to make that desire a reality. Right now, China is the largest producer and importer of illicit synthetic drugs into the U.S. Because there are so many people who absolutely demand these substances, the country is going to continue to produce them because, hey, it makes them money. And unfortunately, we live in a world where some of us value money over human lives.

Each day, lives are lost in the epic fight against addiction. Sometimes the drugs prove to be too strong, and once that’s been noticed, it’s too late. You can’t rewind and not have pushed that plunger all the way down. You can’t undo certain mistakes but what we can do is prevent the next kid from picking up a straw and snorting that line or taking that pill. These are our kids who are going to be the future of the drug crisis. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “what type of future do we want for them?”

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Jason Good

Jason has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 10 years. Having been an addict himself he brings real-word experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Jason is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions. Jason is also the co-host of The Addiction Podcast—Point of No Return. You can follow Jason on Google+, Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.