Fentanyl abuse has become a significant issue around the world, including the United States.
This synthetic opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Now, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports that AI could help reduce fentanyl shipments, possibly reducing fentanyl abuse and overdose as a result.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a particularly powerful opioid, a type of drug that induces euphoria and pain relief.
Prescription fentanyl does have some approved medical uses in the U.S., particularly for cancer pain and other types of chronic pain that have become resistant to weaker opioids.
However, much of the fentanyl consumed in the U.S. is produced on the black market.
It is cheap and easy to produce, and as a result, it is often mixed with other street drugs to enhance their effects.
Why Is Fentanyl Dangerous?
Fentanyl has become a crucial concern for addiction treatment experts and law enforcement agencies alike.
Fentanyl is both very potent and very common, a combination which contributed to more than two-thirds of the nearly 110,000 overdose deaths reported in 2022 alone.
People often consume fentanyl unknowingly, not realizing that this drug has been mixed with the substance they intended to consume.
Because fentanyl is more powerful than most people’s bodies can tolerate, this accidental consumption results in devastating side effects, including medical emergencies and even death.
Fentanyl Trafficking In The U.S.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that most of the illicit fentanyl in the U.S. is produced using ingredients sourced from China.
These ingredients are shipped from China to Mexico, where fentanyl is produced and then smuggled into the U.S.
This process requires traffickers to sneak their supply past airport security measures, which are not fully equipped to stop the flow of illegal fentanyl into the country.
However, the rise of artificial intelligence may bolster security, spotting production equipment for illicit fentanyl when other measures fail to do so.
How Artificial Intelligence Could Reduce Fentanyl Shipments Into The U.S.
The DHS has created AI-driven scanning technology that could prevent illicit fentanyl from reaching the U.S. drug market.
This technology targets pill presses, which are devices that press powdered substances into uniform tablets.
Pill presses can also make legitimate-looking indentations, disguising illicit fentanyl and other drugs as genuine, legal medications.
Additional AI technology is being used to track cryptocurrency used by Mexican drug cartels, which can help the DHS trace fentanyl to its sources.
Combating Fentanyl Abuse
AI technology has already experienced some success, and the Biden-Harris administration is also using a multi-pronged approach to cut off fentanyl at its source.
However, for the millions of Americans experiencing opioid addiction, more action is needed to address the immediate danger of fentanyl overdose.
Americans with opioid use disorder (OUD), as well as their loved ones, can take steps to reduce harm and save lives.
Harm Reduction Measures
While there is no safe way to use opioids or any drug illicitly, immediate harm reduction measures can save lives and improve outcomes.
For example, fentanyl test strips can detect the presence of fentanyl in other substances. These test strips are inexpensive, and they can help people avoid accidental fentanyl-related overdose.
Another example is naloxone, an opioid overdose-reversal medication that can quickly restore normal breathing patterns in people experiencing opioid overdose.
People who deal with opioid abuse, as well as their friends and family members, can ask a doctor or pharmacist about carrying this medication.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
For people with OUD, the most effective way to prevent harm is to seek evidence-based addiction treatment.
Medical detox and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are especially effective for many people, as they allow the body to eliminate drugs in a safe, supervised, and gradual way.
Find Treatment For Opioid Abuse Today
Opioids, including fentanyl, are highly addictive substances, but with the right treatment, recovery is possible.
If you or a loved one experience opioid addiction or any type of substance abuse, contact Addiction Resource to begin the recovery journey.
Published on July 20, 2023
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
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- National Public Radio (NPR)
- NBC News
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)