- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 24 February 2016
- Written by RICHARD FELICETTI | ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
New Jersey has long been a state with an overwhelming heroin problem. However, there is an even more dangerous drug that is infiltrating college campuses and threatening the lives of young adults.
Federal drug officials have declared the prescription opioid called fentanyl to be nearly 50 times more potent than heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery.”
Despite its powerful strength, the legal implications in New Jersey are not as stringent as those for heroin. Since fentanyl is prescribed to patients for chronic pain, it is easier to obtain than heroin. However, a recent bill in Trenton has aimed to increase the legal consequences of selling and using non prescribed fentanyl.
Today, the most misused drugs are not street drugs, but prescription drugs, as they are easy to find and are not criminalized.
Suanne Schaad, Substance Awareness Coordinator, expanded on the dangerous consequences of reckless fentanyl use.
“The thing with fentanyl is that it is an insanely strong opiate, 50-100 times stronger than morphine,” said Schaad. “When it is mixed with heroin, it can increase risk for overdose. “
As Schaad noted, fentanyl is often mixed with heroin, as drug users mix the two to increase their product, thus deceiving the buyers. The mix of the two dangerous drugs wreaks havoc on the body, causing chest pains, convulsions, trouble breathing, and death. Fentanyl is similar to heroin, so the buyer is typically unaware that he/she is actually purchasing a dangerous cocktail of drugs. Additionally, users may unknowingly take the drug with alcohol, which will undoubtedly cause death, as the opioid mixed with the depressive properties of alcohol can shut down the body.
Sachin Parikh, a sophomore biology major, said that the main reason for fentanyl’s danger is its accessibility.
“Since it is a prescribed drug, it is more easily accessible, and therefore it is a drug that is easier to overdose on,” said Parikh.
As fentanyl use becomes more prevalent, it is important to spread awareness on college campuses, where students are most susceptible to being fooled by a provider into taking a potent mix of opiates.
“It is important to make students on college campuses aware by telling them exactly how dangerous this drug is and that even though it is legal, it needs to be cautioned,” said Andrew Betro, sophomore psychology major.
Moreover, sophomore business major Jake Marciniak said that people must remember not to overlook fentanyl’s legality. Even though the drug is not criminalized, that does not mean it is not incredibly lethal.
“A common misconception is that even though it is not illegal like heroin and doesn’t come in a bag, that it is safer because it is technically legal. Just because it comes neatly packed in a pill bottle does not mean that it can’t hurt you,” said Marciniak. “But the fact of the matter is that prescription drugs are no safer than the illegal drugs. The awareness that needs to be created is that a drug with larger potency and easier availability is ten times more likely to be exchanged between college students and replaced with street drugs. Overall, abuse is abuse, whether it is a legal or an illegal drug.”
Moreover, Schaad said that Monmouth University will continue its efforts to raise awareness not only of fentanyl, but of every drug that endangers the lives of the student body.
“We continue to raise awareness on this and all substances. We have a Students in Recovery Group which supports students in recovery,” said Schaad. “Our own MUPD are all trained to administer Narcan, should a student or a visitor to campus experience an overdose. We comply with state laws on the “good samaritan” policy, which encourages people to ask for help if someone is at risk for an overdose without risk for legal consequences.”
Narcan is a nasal spray used for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose that reverses the effects of the drug.
It is encouraged that any student with an abuse problem visits the O ffice of Substance Awareness, where they can have confidential meetings with a trained counselor. Appointments can be made Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.