Last Updated on by
For the past several years, government agencies and healthcare professionals have reported that heroin use is on the rise. Statistics show that since 2007, the increase has been driven mainly by adults between the ages of 18 and 25. The problem doesn’t appear to be improving either. Law enforcement and hospitals are now seeing even more deaths due to the mixture of fentanyl and heroin.
Fentanyl, an incredibly powerful opioid used to manage pain in terminal cancer patients, is so deadly that a miniscule amount, as small as a sugar crystal, can cause a fatal overdose. Created in the 1950s in a Belgian lab, there are at least 10 variants of fentanyl. In some cases, these variations of the drug are 100 times stronger than morphine.
The National Institute On Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) most recent data indicates that nearly 700,000 Americans reported using heroin in 2012, a number that officials say is unacceptably high. In 2015 alone, fentanyl laced heroin is responsible for a 26 percent increase in drug deaths in two Florida counties. Other hard hit cities include Detroit, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Greenville, South Carolina. The list, however, continues to grow.
Michelle Leonhart, an administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), told USA Today, “Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate. [It’s] a significant threat to public health.”
Furthermore, the DEA has issued a nationwide alert about the dangers of fentanyl laced heroin.
Facts About Heroin Laced with Fentanyl
- Fentanyl can overwhelm receptors in the brain that are responsible for the respiratory system. This overload can cause users to stop breathing, and in some cases die instantaneously
- Some users who have illegally obtained fentanyl patches, prescribed for pain management, extract the drug and mix it with heroin. This practice creates what’s being called a “super-high” that puts users at an incredible risk of death
- The vast majority of heroin users who have overdosed were not aware the heroin was laced with fentanyl
- These deadly mixtures have been sold on the street under the names “TheraFlu,” “Income Tax” and “Breaking Bad” among others
Large seizures of fentanyl have been made on both the east and west coasts. State and local labs reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions in 2014 compared to 942 in 2013. Authorities believe that the vast majority of heroin making it’s way to America is being cut with fentanyl in Mexico and China.
“This is all driven by profit,” says DEA special agent in charge of South Carolina, Robert Murphy. He noted that dealers cut a kilo of heroin with fentanyl to make it two kilos, and have no concern for the trail of victims they leave behind.
Cutting heroin and cocaine with other drugs, even fentanyl, is not new. Heroin, though, is more abundant and cheaper than ever before, which means pushers need to sell more to make more money. Mixing it with fentanyl is a deadly, but easy solution.
While nobody is advocating the use of heroin, the problem of heroin addiction and abuse remains a problem for many people across the country. The best case scenario for those who are addicted is to get treatment for heroin addiction.
Until that time, for those who are still using, know the risks and understand that no heroin is safe, and the current batch could be more deadly than the last one. Never use alone, and always have an overdose plan with your friends. It’s never easy, but seek treatment as soon as possible. Saving your life is worth it.