ATLANTA — Fentanyl is taking the lives of more and more people across the state and the country, data shows.
The Georgia Department of Public Health says it is seeing increased cases of overdoses related to the drug, especially since the start of the pandemic.
Now, reducing the risk and upping the penalties for dealing fentanyl or mixing it with other drugs are the goals of a wave of lawmakers and advocates, looking for ways to fight fentanyl.
Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, for the first time, more than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses over a 12 month period. About two-thirds of the deaths were linked to fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.
The Georgia Department of Public Health found between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, overdose deaths involving fentanyl jumped by 106.2 percent, compared to the same time period the previous year. The agency warns that fentanyl-laced drugs cannot be detected by sight or smell, and even a small amount can lead to an overdose.
According to NBC News, chemical components of the drugs are being shipped largely from China to Mexico, where much of the fentanyl supply is produced in labs before being smuggled into the United States, and users often do not realize the drugs they are taking have been mixed with fentanyl.
In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice filed about 2,700 cases involving crimes related to the distribution of fentanyl and similar synthetic drugs, but some argue more needs to be done.
Earlier this year, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr joined with a group of attorneys general from across the country, urging the U.S. Department of State to strengthen its fight against the rise of the deadly drug and to pressure China and Mexico to stop the drug's movement into the U.S. Some leaders have even deployed national guard units to the U.S. border with Mexico to help stop the flow of fentanyl into the country.
Advocates say the use of test strips could help prevent accidental overdoses, so someone knows if fentanyl is in a substance.
Many are pushing governments to take steps to ease access to harm-reduction efforts like the strips, or other methods, to counteract overdoses while others are calling for more action to strengthen penalties for those trafficking the drug.
If you or someone you know might be experiencing an overdose, contact 911 right away. You can also find services to help from the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at any time at 1-800-715-4225.