The addiction epidemic is still being fought across America. More awareness seems to have helped states get a few more resources to battle the epidemic, but thousands of people are overdosing more everyday. An influx in fentanyl, a drug that’s nearly 50 to 100 times the strength of morphine, has caused overdoses in every state that has a drug problem. Many of these overdoses are by people who aren’t even aware that they’re taking fentanyl.
Why is Fentanyl Causing So Many OD’s and Deaths?
Fentanyl is becoming a common factor in drug overdoses and deaths. According to data from the Department of Health in California, fentanyl deaths skyrocketed by 614% to 743 in 2018. Many of the deaths are attributed to the rise of counterfeit pills. Drug users who buy the pills believe that they’re getting a different drug.
Most of the people who overdose on fentanyl are addicted to other opioids, such as heroin or Oxycontin. The pills are cut to look like Oxycontin or other less potent drugs. Sometimes the fentanyl is mixed with a the drug. The drug buyers usually don’t know what they’re getting. This means that they may be used to taking two or more of the Oxy pills at a time due to a tolerance. But taking two pills of fentanyl can be deadly to most users of less strong drugs.
Tainting the Drug Market
Drug dealers have also been substituting fentanyl for heroin or adding fentanyl to the heroin they’re selling. Because fentanyl is so much stronger than heroin, it’s likely the dealers believe that adding fentanyl will addict more users. Sometimes the supply is tainted before it gets to America and the drug dealers don’t know about it.
Usually, the drug dealer is just being callous and trying to addict a user more efficiently.
In California, there are a lot of tainted pills. Fentanyl has been found in crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, MDMA. Some people become addicted to drugs because of the fentanyl content, while other simply overdose. When a person addicted to a less potent drug ingests a large amount of fentanyl, they’re not used to it. It is usually hundreds of times stronger than the drug they normally use. This causes overdoses that are often fatal.
Even first responders have trouble reviving people who overdose on fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a Becoming a Big Problem in California
Unlike Oxycontin, many people use fentanyl buy it from a drug dealer on the street. But where does this drug, which is only supposed to be used for things like cancer and surgery, come from? How does it get into the hands of addicted people?
While taking heat for trying to flood the world with Oxycontin, drug companies are not likely to supply the drug en masse. Instead, the government has had to find and shut down dirty doctors who have operated what are described as “pill mills”.
California has been cracking down on opioid distribution for years. Unfortunately, when it comes to the war on opioids, it’s often like playing whack-a-mole to keep up with dealers and distributors.
Southern California’s Fentanyl Problem
In 2018, state prosecutors busted a doctor in Southern California operating a “pill mill” that prescribed thousands of Oxycontin pills to dead and incarcerated people. Pill mills are doctor offices breaking the law and overprescribing purposefully. The offices become a place where addicted people and drug dealers alike go to get hundreds of pills. These pills then, in turn, flood the streets. Today, there are fewer suspected pill mills in California and drugs are often trafficked from other states.
Doctors breaking the law or overprescribing are often flagged under computer monitoring programs. It takes law enforcement a long time to build a case. Much of the fentanyl that is distributed in the United States comes from outside the United States, especially China or Mexico, which of course makes California a likely market. In October, 2019, another bust in Southern California netted enough of the drug to make kill four million people.
“It has become increasingly common for us to see drug dealers peddling counterfeit pharmaceuticals made with fentanyl,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna told the media as he answered questions about fentanyl deaths in California earlier this year. “As a consequence, fentanyl is now the number one cause of overdose deaths in the United States.”
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