Playing Russian Roulette: The Oklahoma Fentanyl Crisis & How to Get Help

country road fentanyl

“My first encounter with fentanyl was surgical. It is an absolute incredible high, and that is such a taboo thing to talk about — how good it feels. Every injection, every hit, every pill you swallow, you are playing Russian Roulette. Anyone who tries it once is lucky to be alive.” — Country Road Recovery Center Director of Admissions & Outreach Drew Laboon

Across the nation and every day, Americans are gambling with their lives, taking a risk on a pill, shot, or hit that may contain the deadly drug fentanyl. Overdose deaths are on the rise — and more often than not, fentanyl is in the mix. 

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic (or man-made) opioid, which means that it operates on the opioid receptors in the nervous system to produce chemical reactions that create feelings of euphoria and pain relief. Similar opioids like morphine have been around for centuries, but fentanyl is something else entirely — and much more dangerous. 

Compared to morphine, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful. In addition, it is often prescribed in the form of patches or candies, which makes it easy to misuse. Disturbingly, however, studies show that fentanyl is also increasingly being mixed into other street drugs. CDC data shows an increase in overdoses involving cocaine mixed with fentanyl, for example. For that reason, many people could be ingesting fentanyl without knowing it.

The result has been chilling: Overall, more than 56,000 Americans died from synthetic opioid overdose in 2020, and early numbers from 2021 suggest that the number is only rising.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram warned, “Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered. Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison.”

Fentanyl in Oklahoma

Indeed, here in Oklahoma, the number of fentanyl overdose deaths skyrocketed from 47 deaths in 2019 to 127 in 2020 — a 170% increase according to state data. Overall, fentanyl was a factor in roughly 50% of all opioid-related deaths. In prior years, it hovered around one in ten.

So far this year, there have been two homicide charges for fentanyl overdose in Oklahoma City alone. Last year, there was only one all year.

Help for Fentanyl Addiction

Despite the seriousness of the situation, there is hope. Earlier this month, a community forum involving Country Road shared the facts about fentanyl and how to receive free Narcan from the state.

Recovery is possible for anyone and continued substance use is not worth the risk. Our Director of Admissions & Outreach, Drew (from the quote above), knows that firsthand — along with most other members of our staff. We have the experience and expertise to help anyone find the road to recovery. Just reach out.