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Fentanyl's Growing Reach47:46
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A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington Va., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington Va., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
This article is more than 2 years old.

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Fentanyl has destroyed lives in the opioid addiction crisis. Now it’s ravaging new victims who aren’t using heroin. How’s it getting to people who don’t know they’re taking it?

Guests:

Julia Lurie, reporter at Mother Jones covering the opioid epidemic. (@julia_lurie)

Hugh Shannon, administrator in the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Dr. Edwin Chapman, head of the the Medical Home Development Group, a clinic in Northeast Washington, D.C., specializing in addiction medicine.

From The Reading List:

WBUR: "Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine Could Be 'Next Wave' Of Opioid Crisis, Some Warn" — "Bennett's story echoes those heard on college campuses, where students are snorting cocaine to stay awake or during a campus party, and overdosing on fentanyl. Thirty-, 40- and 50-year-olds are celebrating their big birthday with a line of cocaine and keeling over. And regular cocaine users report feeling the expected rush and then falling asleep. If any of these men and women use cocaine alone or do not have the opioid reversal drug naloxone handy, some don't wake up."

Mother Jones: "America’s Fentanyl Problem Is Reaching a Whole New Group of Users" — "Alongside deaths involving fentanyl-laced heroin, overdoses involving cocaine and fentanyl—without the heroin—are quietly rising. Many medical examiner’s offices don’t specify the exact drug combinations found in the bodies of overdose victims, but data compiled by Mother Jones found an increase in cocaine-fentanyl deaths in four places that track these specifics: Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York City, and Cuyahoga County in Ohio."

Fentanyl and its related compounds killed an estimated 25,000 people in 2017. That’s more than any other drug in America. The deadly synthetic opioid has been laced into heroin and pills for a couple of years. But now cocaine and meth users are overdosing on fentanyl-contaminated drugs, and they may not have even known it was there. Which means the opioid crisis is spreading to new groups, leaving more families devastated as the overdose rate rises.

This hour, On Point: How the spread of fentanyl may be transforming the opioid crisis into a narcotics overdose crisis.

-- Meghna Chakrabarti

This program aired on April 25, 2018.

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