So Why Is Fentanyl Surpassing Heroin Related Overdoses?
It’s easier and cheaper to produce than heroin, which is derived from poppy plants. With fentanyl, there are no crops, just chemicals.
“You can make it as strong as you want, and in bulk and fast,” said Tim Reagan, a Cincinnati-based DEA agent. And because it’s so potent, a little bit goes a long way, making it extremely profitable.
Why Do Addicts Use Fentanyl When They Are So Likely To Overdose?
First, medical experts note that addiction is a Mental Health Issue that can impair self-control and judgment. Addicts are not making rational decisions.
Second, some addicts don’t realize fentanyl has been mixed into the drugs they’re buying. Take this user, who posted a message in a fentanyl chat room on Reddit asking about what might be in his opioid pills.
“With real oxy, I usually have at least a day after my last dose before the withdrawls (sic) kick in, but now it’s literally like 3-4 hours after my last dose,” this person wrote. “Is this normal for fent or are my pills laced with something else?”
Finally, addicts want the most intense high, and some seek out fentanyl-laced drugs even if they realize it could kill them. “If a user dies … (others) are going to try to find that dealer, because they’re looking for the best stuff,” Reagan said.
Another addict on Reddit explained the decision to use fentanyl this way:
“So because oxycodone is so gosh darn expensive I’ve decided to start using fentanyl but have no idea how to use it,” this person wrote. “How much am I supposed to use without killing myself?” ” thanks for your help.”
What Role Is The Internet Playing In Fentanyl Sales And Distribution?
A big one. Dealers and addicts can buy fentanyl directly from Chinese manufacturers with just a Google search and a few clicks.
More sophisticated operators use the so-called dark web, which hides the servers and identities of a websites administrators and users. These clandestine sites often use digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, to further disguise financial transactions.
“These dark web markets are like eBay” for illegal products, said Isak Ladegaard, a researcher at Boston College who has studied digital drug markets. “If you order something through the dark web and it’s delivered to your address, there is no evidence you were the person making the order.”
The Department of Justice announced on July 20 that it had shuttered one the largest online criminal marketplaces, AlphaBay, and Dutch authorities also recently closed a similar site called Hansa Market. At the time of the AlphaBay bust, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on the site, the Department of Justice said, along with thousands of listings for other illicit goods.
But Ladegaard said the DOJ crackdown would not dampen the illegal fentanyl trade.
“All research thus far suggests that when a market is closed down, there is a period when there is some instability and people are not entirely sure what to do,” he said. “But fairly soon, traffic moves on to other (dark web) marketplaces.”
Where Is The Fentanyl Coming From?
The primary source of this synthetic opioid is China, where thousands of illicit labs led by rogue chemists manufacture fentanyl and a raft of copycat substances.
Experts say the primary buyers are Mexican drug cartels, who mix the fentanyl with heroin and other substances and then smuggle those diluted mixtures across the U.S.-Mexico border.
The amount of fentanyl coming into the Canada and the U.S. via the mail system is on the rise — in smaller packages and at much greater potency.“I expect that in fiscal year 2017, the numbers of seizures in the mail and express consignment environment (such as FedEx and UPS) will be much higher than they were last year,” said Robert Perez, an acting commissioner with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
Perez said the CBP seized more than 400 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal year 2016 — up from eight pounds in 2014. A few granules of the drug can be deadly, and many customs agents are now equipped with Narcan, the anti-overdose medication, in case they come into contact with the substance.
So What Is China Saying?
Chinese officials were initially slow to respond to pleas from American officials to crack down on fentanyl, which is a Schedule II narcotic in the U.S.
China has a booming pharmaceutical industry, and fentanyl was not causing a deadly overdose epidemic in China, so the government there wasn’t focused on controlling it.
“It’s hard to get cooperation from another country on a substance that’s not illegal in their country,” said Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“But China has become more aggressive,” Baum and others say. Earlier this year, for example, China’s National Narcotics Control Commission banned four fentanyl-class substances, including carfentanil — which is normally used as a large-animal tranquilizer and is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, according to the DEA.
That should cause a drop in the amount of carfentanil flowing into the U.S. But every time the Chinese ban one synthetic opioid, drugmakers in that country tweak their recipes to get around the new restrictions.
“These rogue chemists in China can just tweak a molecule and then you have a new substance,” said Carreno. That often leaves American law enforcement officials “three or four generations behind” the chemists, she said.
Resources: Us Today
What do you have to say? Any comments on this subject would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks – Jeff Dibble