The first, most important step is to increase access to, and continue to develop accurate, non-judgmental education programs on drug use, misuse, and how to prevent and decrease the probabilities of overdose by teaching practices such as not combining opioids with other depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines.
Beyond education, there are already a number of evidenced-based options that can help save lives and minimize harms associated with misuse of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. These include:
- Drug checking to detect fentanyl-laced drugs,
- Medication-assisted therapy for opiate dependence with methadone and buprenorphine
- Heroin prescribing if that’s what patients are already taking (a long-accepted practice in Europe, and recently adopted in Canda)
- Expanding access to the opiate overdose antidote naloxone
- Enacting 911 Good Samaritan immunity laws to protect overdose witnesses from arrest
- Opening supervised injection facilities that are proven to reduce fatal opiate-related overdoses
DPA has put together recommendations for a comprehensive response to the opiate overdose crisis that includes these harm reduction initiatives as well as others. DPA also works to ensure these life-saving strategies don’t meet with political resistance.
When it comes to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, we must ensure that any new laws do not imitate ineffective drug war tactics by relying on criminal punishment rather than a public health approach.