The 4th Wave of the Fentanyl Crisis

September 14, 2023 on the NPR Morning Edition

Fentanyl mixed with cocaine or meth is driving the '4th wave' of the overdose crisis

Take 2 minutes to listen to the NPR segment on their Morning Edition that describes the the 4th Wave of the Fentanyl Crisis


Recent studies have identified a "fourth" wave to the disturbing trend of polysubstance overdoses, most significantly involving the combination of opioids and stimulants. The data indicates that the use of these substances together, known as "speedballing", is becoming increasingly common. This increase in polysubstance use is particularly prevalent in different regions depending on the preferred drug of choice, with the Northeast seeing a rise in fentanyl and cocaine use, while the South and West report a higher usage of methamphetamine. This growing issue, often referred to as the "fourth" wave of the opioid crisis, is becoming a major concern due to the severe health risks associated with this drug combination, including an elevated risk of overdose.

Our Takeaways

Given these rising concerns, it's paramount to take immediate and effective measures to counter this "fourth wave". The first step is expanding education and awareness regarding the dangers of polysubstance use, emphasizing how deadly combinations like "speedballing" can be. Next, healthcare professionals should be provided with additional training and resources to identify and treat stimulant use disorder. Thirdly, there's an urgent need to increase access to and training for the use of the overdose antidote, Narcan. This life-saving drug must be made widely available in areas with high drug usage. Lastly, the implementation of stringent policies to regulate and control the drug supply can help prevent these dangerous combinations from reaching the streets, and efforts should be made to strengthen rehabilitative and therapeutic options for those affected by addiction.


The 4th Wave of the Overdose Crisis

From the reporting partnership with WYPR and KFF Health News. for NPR

"The mixture of stimulants like cocaine and meth with highly potent synthetic opioids is a fast-growing driver of fatal overdoses in the U.S."

"We're now seeing that the use of fentanyl together with stimulants is rapidly becoming the dominant force in the U.S. overdose crisis," says Joseph Friedman, the lead author of the study and a researcher at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. "Fentanyl has ushered in a polysubstance overdose crisis, meaning that people are mixing fentanyl with other drugs, like stimulants, but also countless other synthetic substances."

Read the Article on NPR

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