Why Some Opioids Users Don't Fear a Fatal Overdose


More than 64,000 people died of drug overdose in the U.S. in 2016, and more than 42,000 of those fatalities involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A COUPLE YEARS AGO, when local news agencies reported a spike in overdose deaths related to fentanyl in St. Paul, Minnesota, clinicians at an outpatient treatment clinic in that city saw an immediate effect.

"A dozen of our patients disappeared," says Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer of the Minnesota-based Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. "They'd been in treatment from six weeks to two years and were sober." The patients dropped out of the program to try fentanyl, a synthetic opiate painkiller that was new to the area. "Nobody in their right mind would want to get near fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and up to 50 times stronger than heroin," he says. "Our patients heard about fentanyl and thought, 'I want to try that.' They wanted to recapture the euphoric high they hadn't felt since they'd started using."

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