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Fentanyl in the U.S. Part One

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, two Mexican cartels are behind the influx of fentanyl we are seeing on the news (or NOT in the news, depending on who you watch). These two cartels, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel that are literally killing Americans at a rate of 197 per day. I am basing these numbers on the latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which state that approximately 71,941 died of fentanyl poisoning or overdose in the twelve months of 2022. This means that 5,995 Americans died each month last year.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse. Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths. Clandestinely-produced fentanyl is primarily manufactured in Mexico.

Fentanyl produces effects such as: relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression.

It is all about the money.

The calculating cartels have several tricks up their sleeves that they use to flood our country with fentanyl. The drug can be hidden in fake drugs carrying another label, and can be added toother drugs all in an effort to drive addiction higher and to make more money.

Developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. The potent drug was behind approximately 66% of the 107,622 drug overdose deaths between December 2020 and December 2021, according to the CDC. And since 2018, fentanyl-laced pill seizures by law enforcement have increased nearly 50-fold.

Unlike marijuana which has to be grown, harvested and processed, fentanyl is man-made so there is no limit to the supply that can be manufactured and/or transported by the cartels. To add another bad guy to the mix…the chemicals used by the cartels to manufacture the drug comes from Chinese chemical companies in massive quantity.

While television and movies still show the shady corner in the worst part of town as the best place to purchase your self-prescribed medicines, the truth is that fentanyl is marketed specifically to young people via social media platforms.

Fentanyl, she said, is marketed to children and teens as OxyContin, Adderall or Percocet in the form of counterfeit pills, oftentimes through social media platforms like Snapchat. Think about this the next time your child passes you in the hallway with their head buried in a smartphone.

Every parent should educate themselves and their children (of all ages) about poisonous fentanyl-laced drugs being sold on social media applications and via the darknet. While our government agencies are ramping up efforts on every level, the amount of the drug being brought in is still staggering. We can only hope that teams like the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement Team (J-CODE) continues to be successful in taking down marketplaces and individuals that are distributing the drug for the cartels.

According to the DEA, US Federal agents claim to have seized enough fentanyl in 2022 to kill EVERY AMERICAN! Please note that this is more than double than what was seized in 2021. In addition to the fentanyl, the DEA also seized 131,000lb of methamphetamine, more than 4,300lb of heroin, and over 444,000lb of cocaine in 2022.

So how much fentanyl would it take to kill me? The rule of thumb is that if you can see it, it can kill you. You would scarcely be able see that lethal two milligram speck of fentanyl. Two milligrams—the miniscule amount of fentanyl it takes to trigger a potentially fatal reaction—can drastically slow your breathing or even bring it to a complete stop. Lack of oxygen flow to the brain can lead to coma, permanent brain damage and death. A scarcely visible speck of fentanyl is enough to kill; dealers are using increasingly larger amounts of the synthetic opioid to cut their drugs. That deadly combination has caused fentanyl overdoses to become the No. 1 killer of American adults 18 to 45.

Dealers often add fentanyl to illegal drugs (like cocaine and heroin) and to counterfeit pills being passed off as authentic prescription medications like Xanax and OxyContin. Fentanyl is relatively cheap to manufacture, and a small amount, as I have said, goes a long way.

In late 2022, the situation became more dire as the DEA began advising the public of an alarming emerging trend of colorful fentanyl available across the United States. Law enforcement began seizing brightly-colored fentanyl and fentanyl pills in 26 states. Dubbed “rainbow fentanyl” in the media, this trend appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl made to look like candy to children and young people. And its working.

Brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and even blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk! Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.

Now that we have given a few minutes of focus on the drug itself, we will begin posting blogs on how the cartels work, what dangers are presenting themselves to law enforcement and how we can keep fentanyl out of our own homes and our children’s hands.

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