In 2020 alone, 64,000 people died of overdoses directly linked to fentanyl. According to CDC data from 2020 to 2021, "Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) rose 55.6 percent and appears to be the primary driver of the increase in total drug overdose deaths."
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is almost 50-100 percent stronger than commonly prescribed opioids (painkillers) such as Oxycodone (Oxycontin), Hydrocodone (Vicodin), and morphine. The fast-acting, potent drug also lasts longer in the bloodstream.
Though a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S., illegally manufactured fentanyl has been entering the country's illicit drug market for close to a decade. The drug is clandestinely made, mainly in Mexico, by drug cartels, with the base materials coming from China. But, the synthetic drug can be made in a laboratory anywhere, even in the U.S., by an adept chemist.
Fentanyl is usually and often mixed with other drugs, duping many users into ingesting it accidentally. It is also pressed into pill form to pass as prescription drugs to evade detection.
Although the United States has identified the import sources and the agitators of the current fentanyl crisis, very little can be done in cracking down on these sources, as they are beyond American jurisdiction. The drug's easy availability, low cost, and ease of camouflage have left many U.S. officials scrambling to find a way to curb the menacing drug.
The U.S. has the dubious honor of being among the world's top users of illicit substances, including prescription pills. The pandemic has only worsened the situation. The stress, isolation, and restrictions have caused many to turn to recreational drugs and opioids.
Aware of the situation and its stark potential consequences, the customs and law enforcement are working with their counterparts in Mexico to shut down illegal Fentanyl manufacturing units. Once inside U.S. borders, fentanyl is mixed into other street drugs such as cocaine and heroin, making it nearly impossible to seize.
While efforts are being made to raise awareness of the drug and its dangers, those in the field believe it is far from enough. The potency of the drug poses the most significant risk. Just a small amount, 0.07 ounces of fentanyl, cause certain death.
To prevent such tragedies, efforts are being made to give recreational drug users the ability to at least test for fentanyl in their drugs. Those working in harm reduction organizations believe the use of fentanyl strips could be a formidable way to decrease the likelihood of overdosing on the drug. At present, the strips are primarily only available online.
Those working with drug abusers see the fentanyl strips as another tool in the fight against the hidden killer. Currently, Rhode Island and Arizona have legalized fentanyl test strips. The CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced that states and territories could use federal funding to purchase the test strips. Still, the uptake from many states has been sluggish, primarily due to the stigma attached to drug usage and the inability to lift fentanyl test strips from lists being qualified as "Drug Paraphernalia."
According to the latest Golden/TIPP Poll findings, of 1,301 American adults, the people want action. An overwhelming 71% wish to see fentanyl test strips available over the counter at CVS, Walgreens, etc. Only a small minority, 10%, are against such a move.
Easy availability and affordable rates would likely prompt many recreational users to test the drug before ingesting it. The safeguard alone could dissuade many from using contaminated or fentanyl-laced drugs.
While in no way meant to promote or condone drug abuse, the fentanyl test strips could drastically bring down overdoses and overdose-related fatalities in America. This small strip could save countless lives until more effective strategies are devised and implemented.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking publicly for the first time since his high-profile talks with U.S. leader Joe Biden, said on Wednesday Moscow reserves the right to "defend its security" but refused to say if he planned to invade Ukraine.
During their summit by secure video link on Tuesday, Mr. Biden warned Mr. Putin of a "strong" Western economic response should Moscow attack its neighbor.
He refused to say if he planned to move troops massing on Ukraine's frontier across the border but said that simply watching NATO move closer to Russia would amount to "criminal inaction.
The Russian leader stressed that NATO expanding eastwards is a "very sensitive" issue for Russia. "
On Tuesday, Mr. Putin told Mr. Biden Moscow seeks legal guarantees from the West that Ukraine would not join NATO.
Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora says the seventh round of discussions would start again "after consultations in and among capitals."
Mora said the seventh series of discussions centered on the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would continue "after consultations in and among capitals. A joint commission and a number of bilateral and multilateral contacts will take place."
The current round of negotiations began on November 29 after a five-month break.
They were suspended on Friday after American officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said Iran was not taking a serious approach to the efforts, reported Reuters.
European diplomats also struck a pessimistic tone over what they noted as unreasonable Iranian demands.
China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Russia participate in the direct talks, while American diplomats are in Vienna and briefed on the meetings.
British forces chief issues warning as Vladimir Putin's troops massing in striking distance of Russia's neighbor appear to be growing by the day
A Russian invasion of Ukraine could trigger the biggest conflict in Europe since the Second World War, the head of the armed forces warned yesterday.
The assessment is based on the latest intelligence reports of Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian border.
The number of President Putin's forces massing in striking distance of Russia's pro-Western neighbor appears to be growing by the day.
At least 90,000 soldiers, backed by hundreds of heavy artillery weapons and tanks, are already in place, and reports suggest this figure could rise to 175,000 personnel by early next year.
Challenges For Olaf Scholz's Government
Germany's new coalition includes three parties that have never governed together before -- Social Democrats (SDP), Greens, and liberal Free Democrats (FDP) -- and faces a host of urgent issues.
With Olaf Scholz's ascendency to Chancellor, the untested governing coalition faces questions about several critical topics, including the looming threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the future of Nord Stream 2, and German commitments in NATO.
Former finance minister Chancellor Scholz must deal with a sputtering economy. Figures released on Monday (December 6) showed a far more significant slump in factory orders in October than analysts had predicted. The Economy Ministry said demand was down 6.9 percent compared with the previous month, the second drop in three months in Europe's biggest economy.
Shortages of raw materials and products such as microchips have hit the automobile industry hard. And inflation has surged to six percent, far exceeding the European Central Bank's two percent goal.
Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock has to build the coalition's response to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. There is likely to be a row over Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline from Russia across the Baltic, which the Greens oppose, and the SPD backs.
The 40-year-old MP and Green co-leader will also have to deal with President Vladimir Putin, while many in the SPD are inclined to go easy on Putin.
On Wednesday, the Canadian government said it would not send government officials to next year's Beijing Olympics, joining the United States and others in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games over China's human rights record.
The announcement came after Australia and Britain said earlier in the day that they too would engage in a diplomatic boycott, following the U.S. lead. President Joe Biden made his country's move official on Monday, citing alleged human rights abuses in China's far-western Xinjiang region.
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