August 1st, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman
For what seems like several lifetimes, the news has carried the fairly constant message that drugs are a problem here and abroad. Despite being taught at an early age that drugs are harmful, many people find themselves battling with substance abuse at some point in their lives. This critical public health issue involves illegal substances as well as prescription drug abuse. Drugs are everywhere. In addition to the harm they cause to the body, they also can result in erratic and dangerous behavior. Even more alarming, drug-related overdoses and deaths are on the rise, and Kentucky is one of the top five states in the nation for overdose fatalities.
In early February, emergency workers in Louisville experienced a noticeable spike in drug-related trouble when they received almost two overdose calls per hour over a period of 32 hours. The annual number of statewide emergency calls relating to overdoses was 6,879 last year, which is almost 2,000 more than in 2015. These numbers account for all overdose calls, including heroin, alcohol, and prescription drugs.
Heroin is one of the most addictive substances out there. It floods the mind with dopamine, causing an intense feeling of euphoria, albeit short-lived. Users almost always become dependent while chasing the feeling, until, over time, the body’s own dopamine receptors die. This is why many addicts relapse. The drug starts out as a way to get high, but ends up being the only way the person can experience pleasure. It can take several years to get the body back to normal after quitting. Compound that with the fact that adolescents often experiment with drugs and you can see how easy it is to develop a risky, long-term dependency.
The rise in heroin-related deaths may be because sometimes the drug is being laced with fentanyl, which is a powerful synthetic opioid painkiller. It’s estimated to be about 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin, but it can cost less. When mixed with heroin, the result is a more intense drug with a cheaper price tag. Since a smaller amount is needed to achieve the high, it is lethal at a much lower dose than pure heroin. Mere micrograms of fentanyl produce the same effect as milligrams of other opioids, and many users don’t even realize they’re ingesting the synthetic drug.
Across Kentucky, fentanyl was a factor in 420 fatal overdoses in 2015, which was approximately 121 more than in 2014. In fact, 34 percent of all overdose deaths were due in part to the drug. In 2015, Jefferson County topped all others in the state for heroin-related overdose deaths, followed by Kenton County and Fayette County. Lexington’s Fayette County also was second for the number of overdose deaths caused by a combination of heroin and fentanyl as well as fentanyl-related deaths.
What makes opioids so dangerous? Merely a few times the therapeutic dose of an opioid causes slowed breathing, and after several hours, death is possible due to continued respiratory depression. With ten times the dose, death is likely, while 100 times the dose will cause death immediately. Fentanyl carries the same risks, just with faster results. It’s terrifyingly easy for someone who thinks they’re getting a standard dose of heroin to accidentally ingest a deadly amount of the potent synthetic. Dealers can easily get fentanyl from another country rather than having to make grow, extract, convert, and transport heroin.
If you or someone you love has been pulled into the criminal justice system on a drug-related offense, there are bigger issues to tackle than for those who do not struggle with addiction. An advocate in your corner who will thoroughly review and investigate your situation can make all the difference in the charges filed, the outcome of the court case, the length and type of sentence, any possible treatment options, and more. No matter where you are in the process, if you’ve been accused of a crime or have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, discuss it with criminal defense attorney Dan Carman, founder of the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. From arrest to appeal, he has the necessary expertise to effectively maneuver your case through the criminal process. Call today at 859-685-1055 or fill out this convenient online form for a free initial consultation.