Drugs are prescribed every day by licensed physicians to treat various conditions, including pain management. However, what happens when a person becomes addicted to these drugs and cannot get more? They frequently turn to seek drugs on the street through traffickers and dealers.
Drug addiction affects millions of Americans with 72.9% of opioid-related deaths involving synthetic opioids. Drug traffickers smuggle drugs into the United States in many ways, often marketing them as a specific type of drug without telling the buyer that it is laced with a dangerous synthetic opioid known as fentanyl.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug often used in emergency medicine and a hospital setting for anesthesia. It is also commonly used for pain management, though the potency levels are vastly greater than other pain management drugs like morphine. Because fentanyl is more potent than similar drugs, less can be used to make a less toxic drug produce more profound effects.
Fentanyl poses extreme dangers to those who use the drug. Those who encounter it transdermally (absorbed through the skin) or through inhalation can have dangerous overdose effects and potentially death.
Why are drugs laced with Fentanyl?
Drugs being sold in the streets are extremely profitable. When illicit drug makers figured out they could create the same drugs with more profound effects by adding fentanyl into the mix, they realized they could significantly increase profits as well.
Traffickers can purchase enough fentanyl to lace hundreds of pills for only a few thousand dollars in another country — then turn around and sell the laced pills for millions in profit as each pill sells for upwards of $20 per pill.
Types of pills being laced with Fentanyl
Fentanyl-laced drugs have taken over the illegal drug market as dealers and traffickers have unveiled the profitability it has shown in their market.
Common pills being laced with fentanyl include:
- Oxycodone is a combination of an opioid pain reliever mixed with acetaminophen used to treat chronic pain. However, it becomes increasingly more addictive when mixed with fentanyl.
- Vicodin or hydrocodone is among the most commonly prescribed pain relievers. Though less potent than oxycodone, it is still very addictive.
- Xanax is used to treat anxiety. However, it is often used recreationally as a party drug.
- Heroin laced with fentanyl was one of the first drugs to make headlines as counterfeit street drugs as you need much less fentanyl to create potent effects when combined with heroin.
- Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant derived from the coco plant, which is native to South America. People using cocaine may be unaware that it is crack laced with fentanyl.
- Methamphetamine, commonly called crystal meth, is a highly addictive drug that affects the central nervous system. Meth cut with fentanyl is highly dangerous.
- Percocet is a prescription drug for moderate to severe pain. Fentanyl-laced Percocet takes the form of counterfeit pills.
Where do fake pills come from and how are they getting into the US?
Counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl are being manufactured in many different parts of the world, like China, Mexico, and Columbia, but they are being trafficked into the United States through various pipelines.
Though it is thought that drugs are trafficked secretively into the United States by the cartels, they are often smuggled through the United States mail service in smaller quantities. The mail is thoroughly checked at various points, some drugs get through to the final destination.
How to stop a Fentanyl overdose
An overdose of an opioid drug like fentanyl can be reversed by the administration of a drug called Naloxone or Narcan. Narcan works by preventing the drug from binding to opioid receptors in the brain, thus reversing the harmful effects like the absence of breathing or being unresponsive.
How to get treatment and rehabilitation
A person struggling with drug addiction of any kind can only be helped when they are ready, If you or a family member are struggling with addiction, it is important to seek counseling through the available resources, whether it be in-patient rehabilitation or outpatient services.