Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is used as a pain reliever for those who are suffering from extreme cancer pain, yet the effects behind this illicit drug have become deadly. Musicians such as the legendary Prince and rappers Mac Miller and Lil Peep are among the celebrities who have fallen victim to this hidden drug. Although this drug has affected the lives of the rich and famous, it also has a devastating impact on those who may not be aware of its potency.
According to data provided by the US Department of State, from 2010 to 2017, overdose cases from fentanyl rose by nearly 640% from 3,007 reported cases to a striking 28,466 cases. Today, the drug is killing people at a rate of nearly 80 people a day. Dr. William Morrone, an addiction medicine specialist, stated that fentanyl has become more prevalent within the lives of people in our society.
“High school teachers, homeless guys, satellite TV salesmen, GM workers, girls in tanning beds, pizza delivery dudes, parents, frat boys, and parolees...” This shows that nobody is necessarily immune to these devastating effects.
The drug first began to appear once users could not afford drugs being sold over the counter or on the streets. Heroin was an option for users, but soon fentanyl, fifty times stronger than heroin, became the drug of choice. The CDC has called fentanyl the deadliest drug in America. A small amount of 0.25 mg, while mixed with other drugs, could be catastrophic.
The source for these amounts of fentanyl can be linked back to the struggles to adequately regulate thousands of chemical and pharmaceutical facilities operating legally and illegally in China. According to the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, the inability to monitor these facilities has lead to increased production and export of illicit chemicals and drugs. While a portion of the fentanyl comes directly from China to the United States, Mexico and Canada are also bystanders of transporting this drug into the country. “According to reports, seizures of fentanyl at the JFK International mail center increased from 7 in 2016 to 84 in 2017, all from China,” stated Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator.
This illicit drug fentanyl is also not exactly the cheapest drug on the market. To compare the prices between heroin and fentanyl, Affirm Health stated statistics regarding the buying and selling prices of these drugs. Heroin, can be bought for $6,000 and be resold to the public for about $80,000. Fentanyl, however, can be bought for the same price of $6,000 and can be resold for approximately $1.6 million. The outcome of these prices leaves fentanyl about 20 times more profitable than heroin.
The United States is taking steps towards stopping the transport of fentanyl to the country. By partnering with China, the U.S. hopes that the Chinese government will become more strict with their regulations of chemical plants. Chinese officials have also committed to cracking down on the distribution and transporting of the drug outside their country.
At the same time, the U.S. Government is working with the International Postal Union to seize more packages suspected of bringing the drug into the country. By providing machinery that can detect traces of the drug, they can stop shipments before ever reaches the shorelines and boundaries of the United States.
The solutions to the fentanyl epidemic are only the beginning. It will take time for them to make a dent into reducing the number of overdose cases reported each year. If the United States does not start taking action, the problem may become too overwhelming to stop in the long run.