Fentanyl Responsible for the Bulk of Overdoses in Rhode Island

Recent data compiled by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) found that 73% of overdoses between January and December of 2020 involved fentanyl—a 4% increase from the previous year.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic prescription opioid that is often manufactured illegally and mixed with less potent drugs to make them stronger or mask their inefficacy. It is between 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. According to Harm Reduction Ohio, as little as 700 micrograms of fentanyl is enough to cause a likely fatal overdose.

The number of overdoses in general in the Ocean State also rose in 2020. Researchers theorize that this was largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which required people to self-isolate, cost many their jobs, and caused a significant increase in stress, which may have led to more drug use.

Drug misuse has always been dangerous, but the spike in drugs cut with fentanyl coupled with more people doing them in isolation has made it much more deadly. “If you do use drugs, do not use alone, and make sure that your friends and family have naloxone available,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH.

Naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal drug, that is administered either as a nasal spray or injection. It works by binding to opioid receptors, reversing and blocking other opioids from taking effect, buying more time for emergency services to arrive on the scene. Naloxone will have no effect on a person if they have not taken any opioids. In Rhode Island, naloxone devices like Narcan, are available at many pharmacies and do not require a prescription. Also, Good Samaritan laws in Rhode Island prevent someone from being arrested for administering naloxone to someone suffering an overdose.

Knowing how to respond to an overdose is crucial. However, prevention and addiction treatment may be even more important in curbing the opioid overdose epidemic. Fortunately, while substance use disorder is a devastating chronic illness, it is also treatable. Often, it just requires getting the right help.

Addiction treatment is a highly individualized process—certain settings and methods may work better for some than they do others. However, years of research have culminated in evidence-based approaches that have been proven effective in helping people get sober and remain in long-term recovery.

Treatment for addiction typically begins with detoxification, which allows a patient to withdraw from drugs or alcohol safely and more comfortably under doctor’s supervision. While important, detox alone is not often effective keeping someone in long-term recovery. That’s why rehabilitation is important. Rehab usually combines therapy with medication-assisted treatment to rewire destructive thought patterns in a patient’s mind, teaching them to recognize and overcome triggers that lead them to use, as well as motivate them to stay sober.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, know that it’s not too late to get help. Please reach out to an admissions navigator at . They can answer questions about AdCare’s facility and help you decide on a treatment option that is right for you.