Fentanyl Abuse: An Emerging Deadly Threat

The news repeatedly carries stories about America’s opioid epidemic.  That’s because prescription drug abuse kills more Americans Fentanyl Sacramentevery day than guns or even cars.  Most noteworthy, one opioid is particularly worrisome. And that’s Fentanyl abuse: an emerging deadly threat.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids (aka opiates) predate recorded history.  They have been used for sedative and analgesic purposes .  Unfortunately, people abuse opiates for their euphoric side effects.

There are three classes of opioids, “natural”, “semi-synthetic,” and “synthetic”.

The poppy plant is processed to create “natural” opiates.  Examples are morphine, thebaine,  and codeine.

“Semi-synthetic” opiates include heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and others.  The alkaloids found primarily in thebaine and morphine are the basis for processing.

“Synthetic opioids” are entirely man-made; no thebaine or morphine are used.

All opioids are highly addictive and carry a high potential for abuse.

How Do People Become Addicted?

As America’s opioid addiction epidemic continues to grow unabated, illicit drug distributors are enjoying burgeoning demand for opiates.  Every day we see more Americans addicted to prescription opioids and heroin.  Many start with a painkiller prescription for a minor injury like a sprained ankle.  Quickly addicted to prescription opiates, they then trade down to heroin because it is much less expensive and far more readily available than prescription opiates.

What Is Fentanyl?

Lethal Dose
Lethal Dose

Fentanyl is a purely synthetic opioid.  Paul Jassen created Fentanyl in 1960.  And Sublimaze was the first opiate brand marketed..  Common Brand names today are  Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Lazanda, and Onsolis.  Street names include Fent, Percopop, and China White.

Fentanyl is extremely powerful.  In fact, it’s as much as  100 to 1000 times more powerful than morphine. That’s why it is prescribed in micrograms (1/1000 of a milligram).  As a result, people have become sick and died just from touching fentanyl.

A tiny amount of Febtanyl can cause an overdose and death.  In fact, only 2 milligrams is a lethal dose. That amount would look like a few grains of salt to you and me.

Fentanyl: An Emerging Deadly Threat

Illicit drug laboratories in China are the main suppliers of Fentanyl to the Mexican drug cartels.  The cartels move Fentanyl into the United States via well-established routes through our porous southern border.

The drug cartels love Fentanyl because it is so much cheaper and more profitable than heroin.  Consequently, a kilogram of heroin can generate about $80,000 in profit.  While a kilogram of Fentanyl can generate close to $1 million.  So, here’s how that works.

Some drug dealers use Fentanyl to “cut” heroin, extending the yield of a batch.  While others mix Fentanyl  with other substances and sell it to unsuspecting users as heroin.Artist Prince

However, there’s an even more nefarious application for Fentanyl.  Because illicit drug distributors package and sell Fentanyl  on the street as prescription medications.  As a result, unsuspecting users think they are safe because they are taking a “prescription medication”. For example, Fentanyl, sold on the street as Norco, killed Prince.

Finally, The United States Surgeon General recently cited prescription drug abuse as the number one threat to Americans’ health.  Most noteworthy, the expanded use of Fentanyl by illicit drug distributors is contributing to the rising fatalities.