In the United States, more people have died from opioid overdose in the last year (65,000) than in the entire Vietnam War. Here in the Northwest we have not avoided the destruction of pill abuse. In Oregon, on average, almost two people die each week from overdose, a statistic that sadly is beginning to engulf far more youths.
In recent months there have been overdoses from students at David Douglas, Lincoln and most recently Grant high school. A major prescription drug that is at the forefront of this dilemma is Xanax. Xanax is both very addicting and often times over-prescribed, leading to more and more people becoming entwined in its addiction. When people are no longer prescribed Xanax, as a result of their addiction, they are forced to buy it in bar form off the street- often worsening their problems. Each bar is two milligrams which is about eight times stronger than the doctor recommended daily dosage of 0.25 milligrams.
Recently, Portland has seen the introduction of fake Xanax being sold on the street. These synthetic Xanax bars often contain fentanyl: a drug that can range from 100 to 10,000 times stronger than heroin. This had led to a major upswing in overdoses since these bars have been introduced to the Portland Metro area.
Oregon medical examiner, Dr. Karen Gunson explained how these fake drugs wind up in the hands of users who do not know what they are consuming: “A lot of these people are buying it on the street or the Internet,” she said, “They think they’re buying oxycodone or Xanax pills but they don’t know what they’re getting.” What makes this even more dangerous is how similar the fake drugs look from the real ones. The very slight differences of the drugs are almost unrecognizable even when looked at next to each other. These drugs have often passed through the hands of four to five people before the actual consumer takes possession, making it nearly impossible to find out where it came from. Police Capt. Mark Kruger explained how this leads to people taking a far more laced drug than the Xanax they expected: “They may end up getting something much more than what they bargained for. The bottom line is if it doesn’t come from a pharmacist, you don’t have any idea what’s in it, and it can kill you.”