AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Medical Association (TMA) is warning about the dangers of drugs illegally mixed with fentanyl as Texas has seen a dramatic increase in the number of accidental overdose deaths reported. Travis County has not been spared by that trend.
Dr. Max Eckmann, president of the Texas Pain Society (TPS) said as little as two milligrams of fentanyl, which is used to treat severe pain and for advanced-stage cancer, can kill someone. That makes it up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, TMA said.
“To put it in perspective, two milligrams of fentanyl could fit on the tip of a pen,” said Eckmann. “Drugs today are more powerful and more deadly than ever before.”
The association of physicians points out that the spike in overdose deaths contrasts the number of opioids being prescribed by doctors. Data from the American Medical Association shows a nearly 45% decline in doctors prescribing opioids nationwide.
“We [physicians] try to avoid prescribing opioids for pain relief if possible. If we are going to reach for opioids, we are mindful of the dosing amount and duration of treatment,” said Dr. Eckmann.
TMA is pushing for naloxone as well as addiction treatment programs as a result of the uptick, according to a release. Naloxone reverses the immediate effects of an overdose. One of the brand names for naloxone is Narcan, which is perhaps more widely known.
“Raising awareness and improving the availability to life-saving treatment is more important than ever. One opioid overdose death is one too many,” said Dr. Eckmann.
Treatment in Travis County
After several deaths and an uptick in overdoses, the Austin-Travis County health authority told KXAN last month that Austin Public Health is in the process of requesting nearly $3 million in funding from the federal government to do more surveillance and collect additional information about the drugs circulating in our community. That will help inform next steps.
Judge Andy Brown also said over the next couple of weeks the county will be providing two separate $50,000 payments to groups that will provide methadone to people struggling with addiction in Travis County.
“Methadone provides a way for people to not take those drugs, to operate, to go to work possibly and most importantly not die from taking illegal drugs,” Brown said.
Narcan can be bought over the counter at many Texas pharmacies like H-E-B, Walgreens and CVS.
“Narcan is extremely important, Narcan is one of the only ways that you can stop an overdose,” Gregory Roselle, marketing content manager at Recovery Unplugged, said.