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Opioids, the emergency with 1 million deaths in the USA

Opioids, the emergency with 1 million deaths in the USA

There is alarm in the United States over the abuse of legal drugs such as synthetic opioids, which cause death from overdose and are as addictive as harder drugs. This phenomenon now also scares Europe due to its vast scope: Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid with effects similar to morphine, is the most requested drug of the moment.


It is a substance 50 times more powerful than heroin and is used in human and veterinary medicine for the treatment of pain. According to some estimates, between the end of the 1990s and 2023, opioid overdose deaths in the United States would be around one million.


Since they are legal drugs, opioids 'hide' better than illegal substances and can take advantage of legal channels in the supply chain. However, they retain considerable drug-inducing power and pose a high risk of indiscriminate and fatal abuse. The effects are: relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation. It is a sought-after, low-cost drug with serious complications from abuse: pupillary constriction, respiratory failure, cyanosis and coma.


In a Europol Dea report there is an interest in the "Fentanyl case": the alarm derives from the fact that its mortality rate increased by 279%, going from 5.7 per 100,000 in 2016 up to 21.6 in 2021, quadrupling mortality rates. Ylva Johannenson, Commissioner for European Internal Affairs, announced that, in recent years, 400 laboratories where mainly methamphetamine and fentanyl were produced have been dismantled.


The difference in diffusion between the United States and Italy-Europe is substantially partly determined by the approach to drugs in general such as analgesics or opioids in particular. In the United States, however, we are witnessing a real epidemic of abuse and overdose of these medicines, also prescribed for the control of cancer pain. The phenomenon is rapidly spreading to all age groups, while in Europe it remains a limited threat for now.


The widespread availability and ease of procurement have coincided with abuse and dependence which in just a few years has made Fentanyl the most sought after and uncontrolled drug, the prescriptions of which are continually increasing. A recent TV series entitled Pankiller was dedicated to the opioid threat.


The strategies to stem the phenomenon should operate synergistically and globally with information starting from schools and taking into account that the era of online purchasing has made the fight against drug abuse even more difficult. A global approach by governments is therefore necessary. This is one of the most important challenges of the near future, which is as scary as a nuclear war.

Professor Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D., is the creator and head of the Sbarro Health Research Organization, located at Temple University's College of Science and Technology in Philadelphia. Stay connected with him through his various social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, to receive the latest updates.


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