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Recovery clinic honors first Fentanyl Awareness Day

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 7:11 PM EDT
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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) - Tuesday, May 10, was the first ever national Fentanyl Awareness Day.

The day signifies the importance of educating people on the drug, removing the stigma from addiction and honoring those who have died from a drug overdose. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and continues to impact many in the Valley and all over the world.

“It’s truly a different beast. It is so much more potent than any other opiate out there that it changes the way we have to work with patients,” said Natalie Broadnax, director of the Mid-Atlantic Recovery Center (MARC) in Waynesboro.

MARC focuses on harm-reduction methods of treatment and hopes to spread the word on the effects of fentanyl.

“When looking at accidental poisonings, drug poisonings, heroine and fentanyl make up 99.5%,” said MARC’s medical director Holly Johnson.

According to the DEA, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid said to be 50 times more potent than heroin. In medical settings, properly manufactured fentanyl treats severe pain. When used illicitly, it’s very dangerous. It has become more and more popular in the last decade and is causing more deaths than ever before.

“If you are taking anything pharmaceutical and it didn’t come from a pharmacy, you can expect that there will be fentanyl in what you’re taking,” said Broadnax.

MARC Nurse Anne Lynch has spent much of her life as a volunteer first responder, and she has seen many overdoses firsthand.

“I have seen a huge shift in overdoses. When I first started, you didn’t really have an overdose. Now, in the last several years, we’re seeing a whole lot more of unintentional overdoses in our area,” said Lynch.

The commonwealth’s health department reported Augusta County saw eight fentanyl related deaths in 2021. Waynesboro and Staunton each saw two. Harrisonburg saw four, and Rockingham County saw three.

In 2020, 1659 people in Virginia died from a fentanyl overdose. In 2021, that number rose to 2,033. The staff at MARC said they usually serve people between 20 and 40, but recently, they’re seeing more young people. Fentanyl-involved deaths are fastest growing among 14-23-year-olds, according to the CDC.

“Parents, educators, everybody including young people themselves need to be aware that fentanyl can make it into anything,” said Broadnax.

On Tuesday, for awareness day, staff said they want people to be kind to others struggling with abuse or seeking treatment.

“We are all alike. Just one different choice in our life could put us in their shoes,” said Lynch.

If you want to seek help for drug addiction, visit MARC’s website at MarcCanHelp.com or call them at (540) 221-4885. If you’d like to get Naloxone, you can learn more about that here.

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