Fentanyl Overdoses Inspires Action from Survivors, Narcan Advocates

2 min read · 2 sections

Conversations about overdoses and overdose deaths are not the easiest to have, but the dialogue is necessary to help decrease the occurrence of both. There are several substances—illicit or prescription drugs—that are problematic. The one that rarely seems to provide second chances to first-time users, however, is an unknown and lethal amount of fentanyl arbitrarily mixed with other substances that have led to fentanyl overdoses.

To mark International Overdose Awareness Day, Joy Sutton, host of American Addiction Centers’ (AAC’s) talk show, Addiction Talk, moderated an exceptional panel of supporters in the fight against addiction and overdose.

The panel consisted of:

  • Cammie Wolf Rice, author of The Fight: My Opioid Journey.
  • Jake Arther, overdose survivor.
  • Dr. Mark Calarco, addiction expert.
  • Carla Sloke, overdose survivor.
  • Phillip Van Guilder, Narcan® advocate.

Be sure to watch this Addiction Talk episode entitled: Public Health Crisis: What Can We Do About the Rise in Overdose Deaths?

If you’re battling an opioid use disorder, resources are available to help. As a nationwide leader in addiction treatment, AAC provides care in a compassionate environment with licensed medical professionals. Please reach out to get the help that you need.


What is Fentanyl, and Why Are So Many People Overdosing?

Some opioid medications are made from the opium plant, while others are fabricated by scientists in the lab using a similar chemical structure (synthetic/semi-synthetic). An example of an opioid prescription medication created in a lab is fentanyl.

As a Schedule II prescription drug, fentanyl is usually used for the treatment of chronic pain or severe pain (for people physically tolerant to other opioids) or to manage pain following surgery.

The rise in recent overdoses is most associated with a form of fentanyl created in illicit labs. This synthetic form is sold as pills,A pile of fentanyl pills sitting on a surface, enough that may lead to a fentanyl overdose. eye droppers, powder, nasal sprays, and on blotter paper. To make their product less expensive to produce, drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and other substances. Users may not know that fentanyl has been mixed in, potentially leading to dangerous overdoses and even death.

Cammie Rice, author of The Fight: My Opioid Journey, spoke openly about her views on the current opioid crisis in the United States.

“In regard to fentanyl, our country is under a chemical warfare attack. I went to a meeting in Washington, D.C. with the DEA and that specifically was said to all of us parents that have lost our children. We’re under a chemical warfare attack.”

Cammie lost her son back in February of 2016 to an overdose. However, his addiction began over 20 years ago after undergoing a major surgery and being prescribed 90 Oxycontin pills for the pain. A young man who wasn’t addicted to substances prior to surgery noticed that he was starting to have a problem early on. He went to Cammie for help and fought the disease for as long as he was able to, until he overdosed.


First-Time Users Are Overdosing on Fentanyl

Addiction to alcohol and/or drugs is not a new problem, but the lethal potential of illicit fentanyl has medical professionals raising the alarm.

Father and Narcan advocate, Phillip Van Guilder, has a child that faced an overdose, but lived because Phillip was able to revive him due to having Narcan at his disposal. Narcan is the brand name to a medication known as naloxone, which can quickly reverse an opioid overdose when used correctly.

“We’re using the word ‘addiction’. But this isn’t what we’re talking about. If it weren’t for fentanyl, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Van Guilder.

“We’ve become accustomed to people that struggle with addiction and we just figured out a way to ignore them. It’s the people that have never developed an addiction that use for the first time that just happen to be walking down the street with a friend to experiment.”

People who are experimenting with substances, and not necessarily actively struggling with addiction, are overdosing on substances laced with fentanyl.

To learn more about overdose survivors, overdose deaths, and Narcan, including how you can safely administer it, please watch this informative episode of Addiction Talk. And if you find yourself battling with an opioid use disorder, please reach out for the help that you need today.


*Some of the wording from the interview was edited for clarity.

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