Fentanyl is an incredibly potent synthetic opioid that is responsible for thousands of deaths. Fentanyl is often administrated in medical contexts, where it is used to treat chronic severe pain. When abused outside of a medical context, however, it is deadly. About 50 times as potent as heroin, fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths within the current opioid crisis in America. Welcome to the fentanyl crisis. In addition to its usage alone, fentanyl is now commonly passed off for heroin or found mixed with other illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin in small but deadly amounts.
Fentanyl is Deadly Potent and Available
Due to its high potency, very little fentanyl is required to produce deadly consequences for the user. Such potency, combined with fentanyl’s relative availability, explains how it is taking so many lives. Fentanyl’s strength also means that traditional measures used to revive overdose victims are proving ineffective. One study found an increasing trend of fentanyl showing “resistance to reversal with standard doses of naloxone”, a common overdose antidote.
Fentanyl Can Be Produced in Other Countries
An in-depth look at fentanyl’s sources in The San Diego Union-Tribune explains that a great deal of the illegal fentanyl that is coming to America originates from Chinese laboratories, where a lack of regulation makes it easy to produce the drug. From there, it can arrive in the U.S. through several means. It may be sold and mailed to American dealers or consumers through clandestine online markets on the “dark web,” or sold and sent directly to Mexican cartels that cut their drugs with the fentanyl and introduce it into U.S drug markets.
Fentanyl is Easy to Conceal in Shipping
Many factors make it difficult for authorities to combat this influx of fentanyl. The Union-Tribune piece notes the structure of the Chinese shipping system makes such packages incredibly difficult to trace to the source, with producers having found many tricks to obscure their drug shipments. A recent NPR interview highlights the difficulties faced by Customs and Border Patrol in inspecting packages and their contents; the UPS receives over a million packages a day, and only a small fraction of those are able to be inspected.
Combatting the Fentanyl Crisis
So, what are we doing to combat this crisis? It’s obviously an enormous problem that needs all the help it can get. U.S Senator Rob Portman of Ohio is sponsoring the STOP Act, an effort with bipartisan support which would require international mailers to provide data about their packages for entry into a database that would aid in package screening. Health officials are calling for easier access to overdose antidotes and increased education on how to approach and treat addiction. Many drug researchers have asked for the lifting of federal regulations that make fentanyl difficult to legally acquire for study. 7 Legislative efforts are also underway to introduce a federal database of helpful information that would be accessible to governmental, law, and health officials.
Drug Addiction Treatment at Granite Recovery Centers
The abuse of fentanyl and similar opioids has taken thousands of lives and continues to do so. Any individual struggling with addiction to such substances needs to seek professional drug treatment before it is too late. Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers a comprehensive drug rehab treatment program for substance abuse and addiction that combines 12-step work with clinical care. We will help you or your loved one beat addiction and get your life back on track with compassion and professional expertise. If you or a loved one has an opioid addiction, please contact our drug helpline at 855.712.7784 or send us a message.