Law enforcement officials throughout South Florida and other parts of the U.S. are alarmed at the increasing number of deaths which are occurring due to heroin overdoses. Investigations into these cases have revealed that the lethal overdoses are being caused by heroin which has been mixed with fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid. Below are some facts regarding this drug.
What Is Fentanyl?
The Centers for Disease Control state that fentanyl is roughly 100 times stronger than heroin. In fact, this drug is so incredibly potent that an immediate overdose may result from using it even once. This is because fentanyl is capable of reaching the brain within a few moments, which in turn can cause respiratory collapse. It isn’t uncommon for addicts who overdose on heroin/fentanyl to die before they can even remove the needle from their arm.
When used legitimately, fentanyl is designed for patients suffering from cancer. It can also be utilized as an anesthetic. Paul Janssen first synthesized it during the 1960s, and before surgeries it is commonly combined with benzodiazepine to reduce pain in those about to undergo an operation.
Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?
Fentanyl is dangerous in the hands of those that don’t know how to use it. Its hazards also lie in its chemical structure; fentanyl has high lipophilicity, which means that it has an exceptional ability to quickly dissolve into the lipids, oils and fats which are found in the human body. This essentially means that it can enter the central nervous system much faster than heroin.
How Fentanyl Usage Is Fueled By Drug Culture
Another factor that makes this substance so lethal is street drug culture itself. It is important to understand that on the streets drug dealers are constantly looking for new and more potent drugs to sell so they can capture greater market share. They are similar to chemists or scientists in that they are constantly experimenting with new drugs and combinations of drugs to create new products, but unlike scientists and chemists they lack the ethical standards, quality controls and regulations.
To drug dealers, drug addicts are nothing more than guinea pigs, and when a few die because they overdosed on heroin that was laced with fentanyl, it is no issue since the dealers know the deceased addicts will quickly be replaced. Addicts themselves also fuel this phenomenon because many are thrill seekers constantly looking for the next big high. When it comes to new drugs word on the street spreads fast, and it didn’t take long for people to start hearing about the new heroin mixture.
Fentanyl Can Be Weaponized
It should also be noted that fentanyl can be weaponized. When produced in gas form fentanyl can be deadly to those that inhale it, and in 2002 the Russian military demonstrated this when they attacked Chechen terrorists holding hostages in Moscow, where the standoff was ended through the usage of fentanyl gas, which caused many of the terrorists and hostages to quickly lose consciousness, with about 117 people dying due to fentanyl complications.