Federal Stalemate Blocks Ongoing Research on Opioid Fentanyl

In the United States, the federal government is currently on a standoff with the government researchers who are trying to find a way for synthetic opioids called fentanyl to stop killing its users. Since 2013, approximately 20,000 people have died from opioid fentanyl. This represents an overwhelming 500 percent increase of deaths from the previous decade. It also means that this designer drug has now outpaced the number of fatalities from heroin abuse and overdose.

The group of researchers at the National Institute of Health (NIH) are trying to understand why the  antidote they had developed are not effective in certain cases. However, because of the nationwide crusade to eliminate these types of drugs, the researchers are finding it more difficult to locate samples of the drug which they need to use for their testing.

The federal law enforcement agencies are also more stringent in regulating access to these types of drugs, which means that the NIH researchers are hard-pressed to obtain permission to access these samples. At present, the NIH is still waiting for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to make a decision regarding their request.

50 to 100 Times More Potent

What this standoff implies is that the NIH research is effectively put on hold until DEA signs off on their request or until the crackdown on these types of drugs passes. This represents a remarkable conflict between political motivations and objectives and crucial public health problems. Anecdotal evidence shows that some iterations of opioid fentanyl are so strong and have been estimated to be approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

This potency is believed to be the reason why the dosages of the overdose antidote naloxone that are currently available have failed to work in some individuals. Most of the fentanyl that is being sold illegally right now come from China and are either mailed to the country or smuggled through the Mexican border.

Because of its deadly effects on the users, the federal government is tightening its restrictions. However, this policy has coincided with the realization of NIH researchers that further study of opioid fentanyl is necessary to determine how the drug works on the brain’s opioid receptors. The researchers believe that the drug is just potent enough to stop respiration even after an individual has been given a dose of naloxone. Essentially, the researchers believe that opioid fentanyl outlasts naloxone.

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