There is a national health crisis occurring, and unfortunately, it is not being discussed in many places. The use of fentanyl by those dependent on opioids has led to a huge increase in overdose-related death. In this episode Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC and David Livingston, LMFT discuss this dangerous trend.
Episode 24: Fentanyl Overdose Deaths Have Reached an Epidemic Level – Help Us #StopTheSilence
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: What is fentanyl and why is it killing so many people? This is a really important topic we’re going to address today. Hey, everybody, it’s Dwight. Welcome back to a podcast to answer your questions on addiction, recovery and mental health put together by Waismann Method Opioid Treatment Specialists and Rapid Detox Center. I’m joined as always by Clare Waismann, the founder and director of Waismann Method, and also David Livingston, our clinical director and therapist. Along with some of the other tragedies that we’re seeing related to the pandemic and people being out of contact with each other, there’s been a huge swelling in the number of overdose-related deaths. And we’re going to talk about one of the biggest parts of that today, which is the use of fentanyl. So that’s a great question for us to start with. Then, is what basically just what is going on with fentanyl and what are the results we’re seeing out in the community?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I believe that what we are seeing with fentanyl right now is absolutely insane, is absolutely preventable, and its people are not aware of what’s going on, that is fully absurd. There should be right now a media focus on preventing fentanyl overdose. And I don’t understand why the silence. Most patients we treat, regardless of what they believe they are taking, they test positive for opiates. And most patients we speak with, they talk about losing a family member, a friend, a loved one, like, you know, they talk about a routine and it just should not be this way. So there is an influx of fentanyl on every corner of our society that is taking lives at a rate unseen. And my biggest concern is, is the lack of exposure to this crisis.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah, you don’t hear people talking about it.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: No, you don’t hear the media talking about it. You don’t hear on social media sometimes we because we look for news regarding opioid overdose treatment. So we are aware of what’s going on because we speak to people all the time. We are aware of what’s going on. But I think we learned with the beginning of the opioid crisis, when people start overdosing due to, you know, crazy prescriptions of painkillers that are being silent is not the right way to go. When people were dying and prescriptions were being written, you know, left and right. Nothing was said into the emergency rooms were packed where, you know, people were dying at such rates that the morgues didn’t have space for them anymore. And I think we are seeing the same path, but at much higher rates.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I’ve heard people call it the Newsweek factor of the like, with every drug that comes out, it starts as a miracle drug and then eventually becomes a Newsweek article that, oh, that’s a problem. It seems like that’s.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Yeah, but I think it’s different. I mean, this is not although real fentanyl is used for medical reasons. The fentanyl I’m talking about is being manufactured in Chinese and Mexican labs.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: So this is just straight-up illicit?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: …every drug sold in the street. Correct. So it’s not the fentanyl you buy from, you know, a pharmacy.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Interesting.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: This is. Yeah, because for them to smuggle heroin or pills to the country, I mean, it’s a bulky thing to do because fentanyl is so powerful and such, such tiny amounts is much easier and much cheaper to manufacture and much easier to bring into the country with the border crisis right now is just flooding in. And the results are people are dying.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Do you find that it’s a cross-addiction kind of thing, that people that are are not able to get a hold of opiates go to this, or what are some of the reasons people cross over to use fentanyl?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I think that’s what’s available, period, and that’s what I’m trying to say to you, regardless of what they think they are using, they are testing positive for fentanyl, and that’s another reason they’re dying.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: So people don’t know.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Exactly. So we have patients, they are telling us now when they buy drugs, they have a tester to know if there is fentanyl and how much fentanyl there is because. Ninety-nine percent, it is fentanyl, regardless of what they’re buying. So I think it is a health care crisis that my major issue here is, again, why are we not telling the people to be aware, to be careful what they’re buying? Now, why are we allowing so many people to die? And just… we need to decide!
David Livingston, LMFT: I said the fentanyl is easily manufactured. It’s phenomenally potent and addictive. It’s combined with who knows what else. You don’t even know what you’re getting. You know, you get some fentanyl, but who knows what else is in it. And it’s flooding over, you know, it’s just flooding into the U.S. and because it’s so addictive and it’s so powerful, it’s people are getting, you know, are getting addicted and it’s cheap to make. So that’s the reason why it’s in everything now. So as the amount of, you know, opioids that people had availability to one way or another through pharmacies and things like that is that is all sort of slowed way down, and it has, it’s been replaced with the fentanyl. Is Clare was saying, which is phenomenally dangerous because it’s so unbelievably powerful and you have no idea how much of it you’re getting, especially young people. I mean, they are all relating to have lost friends. And it’s heartbreaking, you know, and then in their recovery, you know, it makes their recovery so much harder and their life harder because, you know, people count on their friends and the people that they have in their life being around with them. It’s one of the things that, you know, is sustaining for everybody. So when you’re losing people, it is you feel like you lose a piece of what sort of fortifies you in your life, because, you know, our relationships are paramount to our health. And so when people are, you know, so it’s a crisis and people then feel less resilient sometimes, you know, and it can be more complex. But it’s a crisis in the fentanyl isn’t probably being talked about, you know, enough.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Let me float out this thought, do you think there’s a chance people aren’t talking about it because of lack of caring about so if someone buys that they’re buying street drugs anyway, so, therefore, people have the kind of the bias we’ve talked about on the show before is saying, like, if you’re using drugs, you’re taking a risk and not caring particularly what are your thoughts about that?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I think we are in such a different space than we were 20 years ago. I think they could have applied 20 years ago. Nowadays, everybody knows somebody that has an addiction issue, so I think it has affected all of us, it has affected us as a society, we can’t just, you know, sit at a higher platform and look down and say, oh, no, those are people, you know, those are addicts. Those are people that it doesn’t matter. I think nowadays we are all sitting on the same level. That’s good.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: That’s optimistic. I’m glad to hear that. If you’re not seeing people have their attitude.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: It’s true. Well, because I think the opioid crisis brought in, you know, the pain patient, the patient that had a back surgery. So it became a problem where people understood that any of us could be affected at any time. It also became a problem for those that did not get the mental health care they needed. So depression, anxiety, you know, PTSD all the above. So I think I think right now you can’t say that. I think, you know, we have become a society to have learned to scream, break, lose it for so many reasons. I think this is a good reason to start screaming and, you know, make our voices heard. I just believe that, sadly enough, one of the reasons people don’t speak out loud, this is life… It’s losing its value a bit. I think when David says that, you know, young people say they lost, you know, three, four, five, even 10 friends, you know, within a couple months. I think there’s something also in their heart that dies with, you know, you suffer so much on the first one. On the second one, on the third one, it becomes almost mundane. You know, it becomes almost part of your reality. And I think a part of people’s hearts right with it, that you become less sensitive to it, like a lack of that makes sense?
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Lack of concern and sensitivity for just kind of the value of life. I mean, it almost sounds like almost like a widespread depression in a way.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Correct. Indifference, more than depression, indifference to and I don’t think is a chosen indifference, I think is almost a protection of your own well-being. There is so much that hurts somebody that there is a limit to where you say no more. And I don’t think is a constant consequence. I think it just happens. You deal with so much pain daily that it just becomes part of life and you shouldn’t that should not especially preventable death.
David Livingston, LMFT: You know, if there’s alienation with your family and you’re losing friends, it is where’s the meaning? Who’s sustaining you? So that’s what sustains people, is their ability to have their family, their friends and people around. And when it when there’s when you start to see that disintegrate, it’s they you know, they tend to cope more and, you know, and where’s the healthy dependency. Right. I mean, if people think of opioids, at least in part, is there is a problem with dependency, you know, healthy dependency, then if the more of the healthy dependency that we lose, the more vulnerable we are.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah, you talked about that about how that affects the connection level, I think people don’t often think about the healthy things in life to be dependent upon and how that can be a life skill. And so because when we are dangerously independent or cut off, actually, right, then we’re more likely to make decisions that are destructive for ourselves.
David Livingston, LMFT: Society is held together by healthy dependency. Right. That’s the fabric of how it all works.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: What’s sadly enough, for the last few years have turned around. People are holding on to very unhealthy dependence.
David Livingston, LMFT: Right. And fentanyl is a dangerous dependency.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: People out there who are listening and hear about this, what should they do for prevention, for safety, family members?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Well, if there has been and again, I’m not talking about, you know, our treatment. I’m talking about any treatment. If there has been a moment in our lives where we should be looking for some kind of treatment for opioid addiction, I believe it is now. The risks of buying street drugs have just multiplied by 100. And when I say multiplied by 100, I mean that because fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than any other opiates that I can find in the street.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And when it comes down to it, someone trying to increase their profit margin, particularly in that illicit industry, it’s never going to be a question in favor of people’s health, obviously.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Of course not. And again, I think this is another issue when they say they know why fentanyl now? Please! I mean, when you’re talking about dealers, you’re not talking about somebody that cares about your well-being. You’re talking about somebody that is an opportunist. We just came through a time where Corona locked us all home, where we felt alone, where we felt depressed. And most people with addiction, you know, just escalate. So it was the perfect storm for them. Let’s create something that is stronger and more addictive, cheaper. This is where we find ourselves.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I remember the first time a client I worked with explained to me. He described to me how heroin was divided. And it’s in a big basically in a big brick. And people, they cut it with other things because pure heroin will kill you every so he saw with everything that was being packaged, there’d be a little crumb here and there that just fell off of the main thing that would just get shoved into a package. And he said, I realize this looking at that, I’m like every one of those is a death potentially. And this just gets throws. And so it’s not even just here’s this stuff that I know is bad for you. It’s here’s the stuff that, yeah, you could do it just as you always do it and you could die because you don’t know what it is or what amount and what else is in it.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Correct. But this is what I’m trying to say to you now. If you figured that most and when I say most, I’d say over 90 percent of what’s sold being sold out is fentanyl.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: That’s remarkable. I mean, a huge, huge risk then.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Correct. So it’s not the same as we used to say that all drugs are bad. Drugs are risky. You know, it’s this is a different ball game altogether. So, again, I will go back to the silence when I look at social media. Then all day celebrates every donut day, peach day, mental health day. There’s there’s a million days, some really important, some, you know, not as important. Why are they not using your power to reach people to talk about the overdoses, to put the faces of the people that are dying, you know, left and right, to tell people about what are the percentages of, you know, of the possibility of death if they buy fentanyl in the streets? And again, what are the treatments available? You know, phone numbers for help. I mean, why are we not doing that?
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It’s really remarkable when you say, you know, one of the things that is the most proactively preventative frame of what we’re talking about then is having that dialog, having an open dialog that you can ask for help or keeping an eye on those that you love and care about and not just pretending there’s not a problem. Yeah, and and and I guess that one of the things, too, as we’re reaching out there, anybody who’s out there who hears this, you know, that social media is sort of a division of labor potentially for anyone out there who wants to, you know do a little Google and throw up or anything you find or just share that concern with people because of people, I think understand what it is you’re saying. I want to tell people about this. I want people to be aware.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: If they are not doing their due diligence. They know I mean, these are companies making billions of dollars every day from from from us. If they are not, you know, protecting our well-being, I think we should voice it so they will listen and start joining us. You know, you have links to social media that you can also, you know, put your thoughts. And if you have any ideas you can share with us and you know, we can join this team as a team and make it happen out there, fully open for it. I actually started this morning with the hashtag Stop the Silence. So hopefully that will, you know, join more people will join in.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Very cool. Yeah. #StopTheSilence. People can go there. And it is @opiates on Twitter. And people should definitely that’s one good way to go out and start sharing and letting people know. And once again, you know, if you’re on social media yourself, you have a piece of that that you can carry. Even if the big names or the big whatevers aren’t putting it out there, enough of us do. And then it starts to become a thing.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Yeah, in a story, you know, a story of something that you have experienced, you know, somebody you knew or, you know, just share with people what you know so they know and sometimes you don’t know somebody sees something on Twitter and it would be a good reason for them to think twice.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And that’s going to be our show for today, thank you so much for being here. Go over onto Twitter, check out the hashtag, #StopTheSilence. Let’s try to spread that. I know that right after recording, I hopped on there and hit it as well on my own Twitter you can go to @opiates, tag us @opiates, if you will, when you put that out there. Love to see that hashtag get out there.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: The Waismann Method podcast is brought to you by the Waismann Method Opioid Treatment Specialists and Rapid Detox Center. The show is produced by Popped Collar Productions, which is a company that helps you to have your podcast and have it do the things that you would like it to do. Our music is always is the song Medical by Clean Mind Sounds. For Clare Waismann and David Livingston, I’ve been Dwight Hurst and thank you once again, please keep sending us your questions. When you have questions, you can always find answers. And when you can find answers, there’s always little hope.
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