Heroin mixed with fentanyl is on the rise across drug markets in the States, killing more than 80 people via overdose nationwide. The growing epidemic is reported to be the result of a recent crackdown on painkillers over the past few years.
The narcotic known as fentanyl is typically used as an anesthetic or for people suffering from chronic pain, in particular cancer patients in the final stages of the disease. Its effect is greater than morphine, said to be up to 80 times more powerful, and is fatal in that it can prevent the user from breathing.
The potency of fentanyl is so high it can kill in small doses and thus is extraordinarily risky, especially considering that users are not aware of just how much of the narcotic they are taking when using heroin.
The rise of heroin is due to the crackdown on painkillers. In 2001, the Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that certifies and accredits more than 20,000 healthcare programs and groups across the nation, announced that pain was being under treated. This led to a 300 percent explosion to an already increasing prescription epidemic of opioid painkillers.
In particular, Ohio and Kentucky had been aiming at closing unregulated mills where oxycodone and hydrocodone were being dispensed. On top of that, much more focus was put on physicians to ensure that over-prescription of painkillers was not occurring. In Sept. 2013, Cincinnati.com reported that the prescription of the two painkillers have declined in Ohio and Kentucky by 10 percent. Unfortunately, the situation is two-fold as the crackdown on painkillers has led to people turning towards heroin.
The last epidemic of overdoses from heroin mixed with fentanyl occurred during 2005-2007. By May 2006, its peak year, cities in eight states – including Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Camden, New Jersey, and Detroit – had seen a rise in overdoses due to the two combined drugs. The hardest hit was Chicago, which saw 100 deaths, and Detroit, where the toll reached 130. Overall, the combined drugs were responsible for killing 1,000 people across the nation over those three years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. states that the drugs was traced to Mexico and illegal factories.
A Chicago senior drug enforcement official said fentanyl labs were discovered in the 1980s and 1990s, but it pales in comparison to the drug networks seen in present day now controlled by international drug traffickers. That was eight years ago and it seems heroin laced with fentanyl is back on the market again.
In March 2013, Cincinnati.com reported that children services in Warren County saw parents using heroin rise from 6 percent in 2008 to 73 percent in 2011, with the percentage of babies being born dependent on the drug tripling since 2006; seven hospitals report the number is at 36 per 1000 births.
It is still not known if the fentanyl is coming from multiple sources or a single source. It is also unclear if the drug is being made in labs or with recipes available on the Internet. Last seen on the rise during 2005-2007 and killing more than 1000 people due to overdose, heroin mixed with fentanyl has shown it can reach an epidemic very quickly.
By Kollin Lore