“Odds Are Alabama” Focuses on Fentanyl Dangers and Offers Resources

Fentanyl abuse is a crisis nationwide, and the state of Alabama is no exception. Alabama has experienced an alarming increase in the number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths in recent years—from 121 in 2018, to 193 in 2019, and to 428 in 2020. Preliminary numbers show 830 Alabama resident deaths in 2021 and 835 deaths in 2022 related to this powerful drug. Our department is committed to fighting this growing epidemic and has joined a group of statewide organizations that have launched the “Odds Are Alabama” campaign to prevent fentanyl-related overdose deaths and poisonings.

Other campaign sponsors include the following concerned organizations and agencies: Alabama Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics, Alabama Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Alabama Hospital Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Medical Association of the State of Alabama, Scout Branding Company, and VitAL Alabama.

About two-thirds of all overdoses nationwide are attributed to synthetic drugs like fentanyl. While the synthetic opioid fentanyl was originally developed for pain management in cancer patients, illegal drug manufacturers have abused it by adding fentanyl to other drugs to increase their potency. Criminal drug networks are mass-producing counterfeit pills to deceive the public.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports the following:

  • Fake pills are easy to purchase, widely available, often contain fentanyl or methamphetamine, and can be deadly.
  • Fake prescription pills are easily accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors.
  • Many fake pills are made to look like prescription drugs such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®).

Six of 10 counterfeit prescription pills analyzed by the DEA Laboratory in 2022 contained a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl. A lethal dose of fentanyl is only about 2 milligrams, which is equivalent to just a few grains of salt. Fentanyl is inexpensive to manufacture, and in 2021 the DEA seized enough fentanyl to kill every American. In addition to pills, fentanyl is found in capsule form and can be disguised as gummies or candies to attract children. As the campaign cautions, odds are that if a person obtains any drug that does not come from either a pharmacy or is prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider, it can be laced with a deadly dose of fentanyl. One mistake with this powerful substance can lead to death.

In addition to heightening awareness of fentanyl dangers, “Odds Are Alabama” provides critical information regarding help for those with substance use disorders, along with information about medication that can reverse an overdose and strips to test drugs for fentanyl.

Despite the odds, there is still hope for overcoming addiction to fentanyl and long-term recovery is sustainable. The Alabama Department of Mental Health encourages the public to download the Connect Alabama app, a behavioral health services and treatment finder application, that provides individuals instant access to education, information, and services related to substance use, mental health, and prevention.

Facts about the dangers of fentanyl and multiple resources are available at VitAL Alabama. The webpage includes important information about fentanyl, along with links to additional resources, such as help in recovering from an overdose and assistance for those with substance use disorders. By knowing the risks and taking action, you can save lives.

Scott Harris, M.D., M.P.H.
State Health Officer