Italy’s Plan Against Growing Abuse of Fentanyl

Health - June 5, 2024

This plan aims to prevent a possible emergency in Italy by providing prevention and enforcement measures to contain the spread of this highly dangerous drug.

Italy has announced a comprehensive plan to counter the growing threat posed by Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that has caused a devastating epidemic in the United States, leading to the deaths of more than 200,000 people in just three years, including famous figures such as the singer Prince and rapper Coolio. Although Italy has not yet reached emergency levels comparable to those of the United States, the government has recognized the urgent need to take action against the growing use of Fentanyl in the country. The drug, much more potent and lethal than heroin, is rapidly gaining popularity due to its low cost and availability on the illegal market. Already in 2020, the Italian government took action by including Fentanyl and its derivatives in the table of narcotic and psychotropic substances, with the aim of combating the production and spread of this drug. The new National Prevention Plan against the improper use of Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, presented by the Undersecretary to the Prime Minister, Alfredo Mantovano, and by the Minister of Health, Orazio Schillaci, represents a further step forward in the fight against this threat. The main objective of the plan is to intervene preventively to avoid the deterioration of the situation, through a series of targeted measures.

Prevention measures will focus on strengthening the monitoring and control of the distribution and administration of Fentanyl, in order to prevent the abuse of the substance for non-medical purposes. Additionally, security measures will be implemented to protect Fentanyl storage locations from theft and unauthorized access. Training courses will also be organized for healthcare personnel, in order to educate on the recognition of the symptoms of Fentanyl overdose, on the management of the effects and on the use of antidotes. The countermeasures will focus on the implementation of operational procedures to contain the phenomenon, on the dissemination of information campaigns on the dangers linked to the use of Fentanyl and on the distribution of Noxalone, a less dangerous antidote, in therapeutic communities, ambulances and police forces. This safer substitute could be an important tool in saving lives and mitigating the catastrophic effects of Fentanyl overdose.

The adoption of this strategy to combat Fentanyl makes Italy one of the first countries in the European Union to actively address this emerging threat. It is a sign of commitment on the part of the Italian government to protect public health and combat the rampant problem of drug abuse. However, to be successful, it will require continued and coordinated efforts from all stakeholders, including government institutions, health authorities, law enforcement and civil society. Only through a collective effort will it be possible to reduce the devastating impact of Fentanyl and protect Italian communities from this dangerous threat. Furthermore, it is important to highlight that Fentanyl is not only a threat to those who voluntarily abuse it, but also to those who may be involuntarily exposed, such as healthcare workers and law enforcement. Its extreme potency and ability to cause overdoses even in minimal doses make it a significant danger to public safety.

The national plan is not only limited to preventing and combating the improper use of Fentanyl, but also includes a public awareness and information component. Targeted information campaigns will be disseminated to educate the population on the dangers associated with the use of this drug and to promote safe and aware behaviour. The fact that Italy is taking proactive measures to address the Fentanyl problem demonstrates a responsible and far-sighted attitude on the part of the government and competent authorities. It is a significant step towards protecting public health and safeguarding Italian communities from one of the most serious drug-related crises of recent times. However, despite this commitment, much work remains to be done to address the problem comprehensively and effectively.