“It was like playing Russian roulette, but I didn’t care. I’d say to myself, ‘I’m going to spend the least amount of money and get the best kind of high I can.'”
--Eddie Frasca, 30-year-old barber and ex-addict
“What we hear from users is that quality is important, and that the reputation of a dealer is rated on a scale of one to 10,” Marc Birnbaum, assistant attorney general for Virginia, told The Washington Post.
“We’ve talked to users whose dealers will say, ‘I got the stuff that will keep you from getting sick, and I got the stuff that will kill you.’ It’s a tragic situation because, for the most part, they want the most potent dose.”
(Steve Birr. “Heroin Addicts Are Seeking Out Fatal Batches To Score The ‘Most Potent Dose.'” The Daily Caller. April 05, 2017.)
(Katharine Q. Seeyemarch. “Heroin Epidemic Is Yielding to a Deadlier Cousin: Fentanyl.” The New York Times. March 26, 2016.)
Where there is significant demand, greedy profiteers ply their trade. Fentanyl is a very cost-effective product in the drug trade. Craig Wiles, associate special agent in charge for the DEA in New Orleans, says a kilogram of heroin may return a profit of about $80,000 while a kilogram of Fentanyl may, in fact, return a profit of $1 million.
(Eve Troeh. “Drug Traffickers Flood Opioid Market With Cheaper Alternative To Heroin.”
National Public Radio. April 21, 2016.)
Another reason fentanyl-laced heroin is popular is that rooting out and busting the labs that produce the synthetic substance is described as a game of “whack-a-mole” – once the DEA targets a specific chemical composition, a new one pops up.
Drug traffickers are making their own product. Fentanyl can be made anywhere from chemicals. That knocks out several steps in the supply chain, no crops of opium to grow, harvest and transport.
Producing fentanyl requires “a graduate degree” in illicit chemistry. “They are fairly sophisticated clandestine laboratory processes, more complicated than methamphetamine, and require some degree of chemistry knowledge,” says Russ Baer, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency. “It’s not a do-it-yourself or look it up on the internet and I can produce it tomorrow process.”
And, fentanyl can be ordered on the internet. Most of the drug comes into the illicit drug marketplace from Chinese online pharmacies. “A lot of fentanyl comes through the US mail and mailing services down to 100 or 200 grams,” says Baer. “They are able to cut out the middleman, order from the internet from the vendor and two or three days later have those deadly substances on the front door.”
(Eric Niiler. “Keeping Fentanyl Out of the US Will Take More Than a Wall.” Science. March 01, 2017.)
(Melaina Juntti. “How America Got Hooked on Fentanyl, a Drug 50 Times More Potent than Heroin.” Men's Journal. 2017.)
Once in the hands of drug distributors, volumes of the synthetic substance – 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin – are much easier to transport across country. Tiny amounts are incredibly potent, so it’s less to smuggle across borders – something very attractive to cartels.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, an average of 11 people died each day of drug overdoses last year in Ohio. A record 4,050 people died of drug overdoses in 2016, with fatalities driven in large part by the emergence of stronger drugs like the synthetic painkiller fentanyl, the Health Department said. Overdose deaths rose 33 percent over the 3,050 deaths in 2015.These figures represent the largest increase ever in one year.
The CDC has a new report out that looked at the toxicologies of a cohort of fatal OD victims around Ohio. They found that 90% of unintentional overdose deaths in 24 Ohio counties that occurred during January and February 2017 involved fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, or both.
The study also found that "approximately 32% of fentanyl-positive decedents did not test positive for norfentanyl, a major metabolite for fentanyl, suggesting a very rapid death.” This means they died so quickly that their bodies did not even have time to metabolize the drug.
(Raminta Daniulaityte, PhD; Matthew P. Juhascik, PhD; Kraig E. Strayer; Ioana E. Sizemore, PhD; Kent E. Harshbarger, MD, JD; Heather M. Antonides; Robert R. Carlson, PhD. “Overdose Deaths Related to Fentanyl and Its Analogs — Ohio, January–February 2017.”Weekly / September 1, 2017 / 66(34);904–908.)
The killing fields of Ohio are testimony to an unparalleled accidental death epidemic. 11 deaths a day. Imagine the agony and heartbreak that families and friends of the victims suffer in the wake of these tragic losses. Then, think of the present danger the public, the police, and the health officials face each new day as they fight against abuse.
And, lastly, consider the threat to the precious youth of America – the lifeblood of our future, the innocent and sober hope for our new wellness. Teach the children to see opioids – legal and illegal – as potential poison. Stress, above all, how any … any … ANY … experimentation or illegal use of the substances poses inescapable dangers.