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The National Institute of Health recorded 9,580 deaths related to Fentanyl use in 2015, and projected it to go higher in the next few years. In 2017, Fentanyl had become the most widely used synthetic opioid in medicine. Fentanyl is so potent that it is measured to be anywhere between 50 to 1,000 times stronger than morphine. It has been illegally used to cut heroin, and prescribed for non-cancer pain. The drug, Fentanyl, has a narrow therapeutic index,, which suggest it has a higher risk of death than most drugs.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic analgesic and anesthetic that is initially used to treat patients in surgery. Synthetic tells you that the drug is not a natural source. Simply put, it could be mixed and created by itself. Making it easy to be used, and distributed illegally. Analgesic means to treat pain, and anesthetic helps the patient rid their memory of any trauma from the surgery. Basically, the drug would help prevent any PTSD that could come from the surgery. More recently, the drug has been used to treat cancer pain. This drug works by binding to opiate receptors in the brain, and changes how the body responds to, and feels, pain.
Fentanyl was created for animals.
Fentanyl was initially created for animal surgery. Back in the 1960s, there was a call for an alternative to morphine, because there were problems with morphine-oxygen anesthesia. A breakthrough came when testing Fentanyl on animals with severe pain. It was then introduced to humans, and created two different forms of Fentanyl—Sufentanil and Alfentanil.
Fentanyl is an opioid. Opiates have a large list of interactions, which could be potentially fatal especially when prescribed with a drug in the benzodiazepine category (patient’s suffering from depression). Also, patient’s with heart problems (amiodarone), heartburn issues (cimetidine), antifungals (fluconazole), antibiotics (clarithromycin), and HIV drugs.
Why is it being used illegally?
Fentanyl is growing in popularity on the streets (illegally) by way of heroin or cocaine. It is mixed with heroin, or cocaine to enhance the effects the user feels, typically after they have built up a tolerance from less potent drugs (heroin). For obvious reasons, without proper monitoring of the user, this increased the amount of overdoses from Fentanyl. In some cases, drug traffickers would sell 100 percent fentanyl, rather than cutting it with heroin (it’s cheaper to make) to heroin users, thus increasing the chances of overdose even more. In May of 2017, a police officer died of an overdose just from brushing off the powdered form of Fentanyl from his uniform.
How is it getting into the United States?
Fentanyl has been traced to have come from Mexico by way of China. China has been mass producing the drug Fentanyl, and it has somehow been shipped to Mexico, and made its way across the border through various drug cartels to be distributed, and sold here in the United States. According to the State Department Specialist, William Brownfield, from the U.S. State Department International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), in an interview with Here & Now’s host Jeremy Hobson,
"We started a serious dialogue with China about three years ago on the matter of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs that are coming into the United States. Since that time, China has moved to control–by which I mean to place law enforcement restrictions–on 136 synthetic products, including fentanyl, and all of the analogues, kind of the fentanyl-based synthetics that are produced lawfully in China, over the last year and a half."
What is being done about it?
The US and China continue their talks to curb the flow of Fentanyl into the United States. For three years, both countries have placed restrictions on the legal production of fentanyl-based drugs. Brownfield said on Wbur (Boston’s NPR Station), “I do not claim that all parts of the bilateral relationship between the US and China are working well, but on drugs, I give them credit, we’re cooperating quite well.”