There’s a new drug on the market that has made its name as the next big killer in the United States. Fentanyl, a narcotic synthetic opioid analgesic drug, is legally used to treat those with chronic pain and hospital patients who are going through severe pain, typically due to surgery or cancer treatment. However, fentanyl has now become widely popular among recreational drug users across the country. Dr. Wilson Compton, the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, reported that in the year of 2016, a recorded amount of about 42,000 people died from an overdose, with 19,000 of them (almost half) being caused by fentanyl.
Fentanyl can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine, which is why it must be prescribed by a physician if needed. However, the drugs found being sold in the streets are mostly coming from clandestine laboratories, or laboratories that produce illegal substances. Transports of fentanyl have also been spotted coming from New England, Mexican cartels, and China’s medical laboratories; some can even be found sold online. The opioid is also known on the streets as “China White”, “Apache”, “Dance Fever”, or “Murder 8”, among other names. It is usually taken via injection, snorting, swallowing pills (that are made to mimic other less potent drugs), or absorbing it in through blotting paper.
Most who overdose from fentanyl aren’t even aware that they’re taking it. This is because heroin sold on the streets is usually laced with it, and sometimes other drugs, before it even reaches the customer. So, when the buyer uses the drug, they use the amount they usually would if it were pure heroin, not knowing that the fentanyl in that dosage can stop their breathing and kill them within seconds. There have even been reported incidents of overdoses occurring while the victim is still injecting the drug into their body. Some victims of this have been saved by Naloxone, a reverse overdose drug, but most end up dying before they are able to be saved by it due to fentanyl’s fast acting effects.
While drug dealers usually make a lot of money off of heroin, fentanyl is cheaper and can be made inexpensively due to it being a synthetic drug. Therefore, when a dealer is selling a drug labeled heroin, it is more inexpensive and beneficial to them to put in less heroin and lace it with cheaper drugs like fentanyl to make more money.
Nowadays, fentanyl has risen quickly in popularity, making it a recreational norm. There are people like Prince, who knowingly take it and die from an accidental overdose, and then there are the people who have no idea that they have taken it until they overdose. Either way, this drug is very dangerous and has one of the quickest narcotic reactions within the body when being used. Due to the sheer level of danger that this opioid presents, many lawmakers in the U.S. are trying to pass bills that would bring harsher punishment to those who sell the drug illegally. Unfortunately, fentanyl remains only one part of the larger opioid addiction problem in America that seems to be getting harder and harder to solve.
by Shelsia Rameau