Nowadays, buying street drugs is like playing Russian roulette. As with the notorious game of chance, when buying illicit drugs today, the outcome is unpredictable. Whether a person is buying heroin, cocaine, or counterfeit opioids, they may be getting more than expected. This happens because many of these drugs are laced with fentanyl, leaving unsuspecting buyers susceptible to its dangerous and unforeseen effects.
As a result of fentanyl’s significant popularity and use, it is one of the most profitable illegal drugs on the market. It is also responsible for the rise in fatal overdoses in recent years. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that every week, more than 900 opiate-related deaths are due to fentanyl-laced street drugs. Sadly, these statistics often represent someone’s son, daughter, parent, or other family member.
Fentanyl-Related Deaths Continue to Rise
Since 2018, fentanyl-laced pill seizures increased nearly 50-fold. Law enforcement seized 2,089,186 pills containing fentanyl, up from 42,202 previously. Keep in mind that there are millions more that have not been seized.
In a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics, synthetic opioids (fentanyl) caused 71,238 deaths in 2021 compared to 57,834 deaths in 2020.
In light of those shocking statistics, we must wonder why fentanyl is so popular despite its deadly nature.
Factors Contributing to Fentanyl’s Popularity and Death Toll
According to the CDC, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin, and either knowingly or unknowingly, people are using the substance in increasing numbers. The four most common reasons for the increase in fentanyl abuse are as follows.
1. To Get More for the Money
Some individuals addicted to illicit substances will eventually look for a bigger high. They want a more potent but cheaper drug and fentanyl provides both. Many drug users switch from heroin to fentanyl for this reason.
2. Buyers Don’t Know What They’re Getting
Surprisingly, fentanyl is rarely sold as fentanyl. Instead, it is hidden in counterfeit opioid pills such as Oxycodone. The pills look like Oxycodone, but in many cases, they contain no Oxy at all. Vicodin is another pill that is frequently laced with fentanyl. Of course, other drugs such as heroin or cocaine can contain deadly amounts of fentanyl.
3. Easier and Cheaper to Make
Most of the fentanyl available today is easily made in clandestine labs. According to the U.S. Law Enforcement Task Force, it costs $32,000 to produce one kilogram of fentanyl with a street value of $20 million. Since heroin production is so complex and time-consuming, fentanyl is undoubtedly more profitable.
4. A Way Around Legal Prescription Drug Restrictions
Due to the overprescribing of prescription pain meds, the U.S. has been in an opioid epidemic that continues to take lives. As a result of this epidemic, the government placed restrictions on all opiate prescriptions. Prescription prices rose, and people with fixed incomes could no longer afford their medications. Dependent or addicted patients turned to illicit drugs such as heroin for pain relief. Unfortunately, they put themselves at risk of ingesting fentanyl without realizing it.
Sources of the Never-Ending Fentanyl Supply
China has been the primary source of fentanyl trafficked into the U.S. for many years. However, when China’s government banned fentanyl sales and production in 2019, it caused a significant reduction in fentanyl trade in that country.
Compensating for the loss, Chinese vendors now use online networks to market fentanyl analogs and its precursor chemicals. The drugs are often shipped directly to customers in the U.S. and Mexican cartels.
Chinese vendors use sophisticated shipping methods that bypass law enforcement scrutiny. According to China’s National Narcotics Control Commission,
“There is basically no information related to the illegal sales of fentanyl-class chemicals on websites within Chinese borders or pharmaceutical and chemical platforms.”
Fentanyl precursor chemicals reach the U.S. and Mexico from China via mail, cargo, and aircraft. The chemicals are often marketed and sold online using code names, acronyms, and registration numbers. By using modern technology and supply chain management skills, the criminals run a sophisticated operation. Furthermore, even small-time sellers can market and ship their products using the Internet.
Strategies to prevent fentanyl overdoses should include a combination of improved availability to addiction treatment, access to fentanyl test strips, supervised consumption sites, and access to naloxone.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment at Design for Change Recovery
At Design for Change Recovery, we want to do our part to interrupt the ever-increasing fentanyl addictions and overdoses. We offer an evidence-based treatment approach that helps clients overcome their addictions and live productive, meaningful lives.
If you want help with fentanyl addiction, contact our Lancaster, CA facility today. We can help you free yourself from the prison created by this deadly drug. You can talk to one of our representatives about a customized treatment plan that meets your needs.
- cbsnews.com/ – Fentanyl-Laced Pill Seizures Have Increased Nearly 50-Fold Since 2018, Study Finds
- npr.org/ – “We Are Shipping to the U.S.”: Inside China’s Online Synthetic Drug Networks
- dea.gov/sites/ – Fentanyl Flow to the United States
- nytimes.com/ – China Bans All Types of Fentanyl, Cutting Supply of Deadly Drug to U.S. and Fulfilling Pledge to Trump