Anesthesia is a risky profession, but now that medical-grade fentanyl is being found in prescription painkillers and other prescription drugs, it has brought new dangers to the profession.
Dr. Matthew A. O’Brien, chief of the medical services branch at University of Pennsylvania Medical School, told ABC News that fentanyl was a highly dangerous substance and that the opioid overdose deaths from medical-level fentanyl were increasing.
In addition to being a potent narcotic, fentanyl is also highly toxic to the brain and can be fatal in a very short period of time, he said.
“The toxicity can be deadly in very small amounts.
It’s like, ‘OK, that’s a little bit worse than a heroin overdose, but I don’t think that’s really going to affect you,'” he said, noting that patients with respiratory failure, as well as those with heart or kidney failure, could be at increased risk of severe adverse events.
In an effort to combat fentanyl’s use, O’Briens medical staff has begun a program of training physicians and pharmacists on how to identify fentanyl when it is detected in their patients.
They’re using a drug-recognition software called CVS Scanner, which can detect fentanyl when the drug is in the blood.
This software is now being used in hospitals, pharmacies and clinics across the country.
O’mann said there have been no reports of overdose deaths in the United States due to fentanyl use.
O’Brien said that although it’s difficult to predict how widespread the fentanyl abuse is in this country, it’s becoming more common.
“In this country it’s a relatively new phenomenon, so we have a lot of work to do, and I think the public needs to know that it is not acceptable,” he said about the drug abuse problem.
“It’s not just prescription drugs or heroin or cocaine, but it’s fentanyl as well.”
O’Bree, a member of the Penn Medicine Medical School faculty, said that fentanyl is “a much more powerful drug than morphine or heroin,” adding that the use of fentanyl as a painkiller has led to a dramatic increase in deaths in both the United Kingdom and the United Americans.
“I think the drug will continue to be an important contributor to deaths in this society because of the way it’s abused,” he told ABC.
O’mann says that in the first year of the opioid crisis, about one in five overdose deaths occurred in the U.S.
He said that in countries like Canada, where fentanyl has been banned, there are fewer deaths, but they do report higher overdose rates than in the states.
“That’s what I would call the epidemic, in terms of deaths,” he added.
“The use of opioids in these countries is not as prevalent.”
O’manna is not the only one concerned about fentanyl abuse in the world.
“It’s becoming a very serious issue, because the risk of addiction is very high,” he says.
“And there are a lot more people who are addicted than there are people who die from overdose.”
O’den, a New York City paramedic, also said that he had witnessed an increase in overdoses in his city.
“There is an increase now, and that’s not surprising,” he tells ABC News.
“We’ve been seeing it for the last couple of years.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August that fentanyl has surpassed heroin as the leading cause of accidental death among Americans ages 15 and older, with fentanyl being the leading substance in overdoses.
O’de is not alone.
“There are a number of individuals and groups, including the EMS community, who are seeing an increase as fentanyl has become more prevalent,” he adds.
Dr. O’sann says he believes that there is a need for more comprehensive drug testing programs and for increased enforcement. “
This has led in part to an increase of the number of EMS responders that are actually working at this very high level of risk of overdose.”
Dr. O’sann says he believes that there is a need for more comprehensive drug testing programs and for increased enforcement.
“I think that the most effective way to go about this would be to go after this drug at the source,” he warns.
“Not the drug itself, but the way in which it is being used.
That’s what we’re trying to do.”