TOXIC “POISONING” OR “OVERDOSE?”

The Language Of Addiction

The intent of our words makes all the difference of understanding our own stigma’s.

The stigma of addiction and the lack of organized advocacy for affected people have been the biggest barriers to creating change for so very many here in Canada and around the world.

But what about the language used by those professionals supposedly in the know? The accidental “overdose” of fentanyl  laced drugs requires us revisit the language surrounding this exploding epidemic and health crisis.

Aren’t we using the wrong language here to describe the toxic lacing of illicit drugs, to a level of potency that makes the use of them so dangerous, so poisonous, that unbeknownst to them, what was a typical dose for an addict, now becomes deadly?

“When a patient has over-consumed alcohol, we call it alcohol poisoning, we don’t write about it as an alcohol overdose,” – Dr. Edward Xie

While people tend to imagine that overdoses primarily occur when drug users are alone, in fact, at least half of them happen in the presence of others. In England, for example, 80% of users who overdosed did so while with others and 54% had also witnessed others who had OD’d. A study in New York similarly found that 57% of over 1,000 crack and heroin users had personally witnessed at least one overdose. A Rhode Island study revealed that 35% of opioid users had overdosed at least once themselves and two-thirds had seen someone else do so.

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Why Do Addicts Take Fentanyl-Laced Drugs, When They Are So Likely To Result In An Overdose?

Why Is Fentanyl The Drug Of Choice?

So Why Is Fentanyl Surpassing Heroin Related Overdoses?

It’s easier and cheaper to produce than heroin, which is derived from poppy plants. With fentanyl, there are no crops, just chemicals.

“You can make it as strong as you want, and in bulk and fast,” said Tim Reagan, a Cincinnati-based DEA agent. And because it’s so potent, a little bit goes a long way, making it extremely profitable.

Why Do Addicts Use Fentanyl When They Are So Likely To Overdose?

Heroin vs FentanylFirst, medical experts note that addiction is a Mental Health Issue that can impair self-control and judgment. Addicts are not making rational decisions.

Second, some addicts don’t realize fentanyl has been mixed into the drugs they’re buying. Take this user, who posted a message in a fentanyl chat room on Reddit asking about what might be in his opioid pills.

“With real oxy, I usually have at least a day after my last dose before the withdrawls (sic) kick in, but now it’s literally like 3-4 hours after my last dose,” this person wrote. “Is this normal for fent or are my pills laced with something else?”

Finally, addicts want the most intense high, and some seek out fentanyl-laced drugs even if they realize it could kill them. “If a user dies … (others) are going to try to find that dealer, because they’re looking for the best stuff,” Reagan said.

Another addict on Reddit explained the decision to use fentanyl this way:

“So because oxycodone is so gosh darn expensive I’ve decided to start using fentanyl but have no idea how to use it,” this person wrote. “How much am I supposed to use without killing myself?” ” thanks for your help.”

 

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