In 2016, Wall Street Journal video journalists Robert Libetti and Adya Beasley chronicled the devastating impact of opioid abuse. This is the story of four families touched by the epidemic. Photo: Robert Libetti
WHAT IS GABAPENTIN?
Gabapentin is not considered an addictive drug, although it does have characteristics that offer the potential for abuse. Some individuals describe varying experiences with gabapentin abuse, including euphoria, improved sociability, a marijuana-like high, a sense of calm, as well as ‘zombie-like’ effects.
Because of this potential for abuse, Kentucky has become the 1st state to make gabapentin products schedule 5 controlled substances.
WHAT IS GC/MS?
The most sophisticated drug-testing approach is gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC/MS), which is regarded as a "gold standard"; it is used in confirmatory testing. Typically, GC/MS is preceded by a rapid immunoassay method to eliminate the majority of the "negative" samples. Despite the existence of sophisticated drug-testing methods, it is still possible to obtain incorrect test results. Such results may be caused by the presence of interfering substances or adulteration of the urine sample. A number of techniques can be employed to reduce the likelihood of obtaining erroneous results and to detect adulterated urine samples. A "positive" drug finding can have a serious impact on the livelihood of an individual, therefore, persons conducting such tests should adhere to the strictest standards of laboratory performance.
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WHAT IS FLAKKA?
It goes by the name flakka. In some parts of the country, it is also called "gravel" because of its white crystal chunks that have been compared to aquarium gravel.
The man-made drug causes a high similar to cocaine. But like "bath salts," a group of related synthetic drugs that were banned in 2012, flakka has the potential to be much more dangerous than cocaine.
A small overdose of the drug, which can be smoked, injected, snorted or injected, can lead to a range of extreme symptoms: "excited delirium," as experts call it, marked by violent behavior; spikes in body temperature (105 degrees and higher); paranoia. Probably what has brought flakka the most attention is that it gives users what feels like the strength and fury of the Incredible Hulk.
WHAT IS CARFENTANIL?
Carfentanil is a powerful derivative of fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic analgesic produced from morphine. While fentanyl is about 100 times more powerful than morphine, carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, meaning it is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. This drug is not approved for use in humans in any capacity, and it is typically found in veterinary medicine to sedate large animals, primarily elephants. In fact, the drug is so powerful that when veterinarians handle carfentanil, they use protective gear so they don’t breathe it in or absorb it through their skin.
HOW NARCAN/NALOXONE WORKS
Narcan (naloxone) is an opiate antidote. Opioids include heroin and prescription pain pills like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and Vicodin. When a person is overdosing on an opioid, breathing can slow down or stop and it can very hard to wake them from this state. Narcan (naloxone) is a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose. It cannot be used to get a person high. If given to a person who has not taken opioids, it will not have any effect on him or her, since there is no opioid overdose to reverse.