Dr. Paul Christo joins WBAP Morning News: FENTANYL HOLDS AMERICA IN ITS GRIP AS OVERDOSE DEATHS SOAR
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl claim more than 150 lives every day in the United States, according to the CDC. And the DEA reports that a recent study of fake prescription drugs revealed that 6 out of 10 pills analyzed contained potentially lethal amounts of fentanyl. Dr. Paul Christo, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has been on the frontlines battling the opioid crisis. “Fentanyl is about 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, so you can put that into perspective in terms of its danger,” Dr. Christo explained in a recent interview. Opioids began as an effective treatment for chronic pain, but its use quickly spiraled out of control. “In the mid-1990s, more and more practitioners were using opioids as a first-line agent to reduce pain,” Dr. Christo explained. “And that, unfortunately, led to an increase in the use of opioids for chronic pain and probably increased the use for those who really didn’t need them.” There’s no question that the pandemic caused a troubling upward trend in addiction disorders, and a recent study predicts an additional 1.2 million drug overdose deaths in the next decade, with people in the Black community bearing the brunt of the opioid epidemic. Dr. Christo wants to remind those battling chronic pain or addiction that there is hope — and help — if they just know where to look for it. “Don’t give up if you have chronic pain,” he said. “Because there is hope. We have nonopioid treatments that can be effective. Also don’t give up if you have a substance use disorder. Talk to your primary care doctor, talk to emergency room physicians … SAMHSA is a good resource, too …Take the opportunity to use the resources that are available.” The opioid epidemic today progressed in three phases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first involves deaths caused by prescription opioids, the second, an increase in heroin use, and the third, a surge in the use of synthetic opioids or fentanyl. Experts say the U.S. is right in the middle of the third phase of the epidemic, due to the increasing availability of fentanyl and increasing rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids.