What is Fentanyl?

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Created On: Monday, 21, October 2019
Modified On: Wednesday, 13, November 2019

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. This drug is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl is a prescription drug, but it is made illegally. The illegally produced fentanyl is often made in Asia and smuggled into the United States. Synthetic opioids are now the most common drugs involved with overdose deaths. As of 2017 59% of opioid-related deaths in the U.S. involved fentanyl, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The fentanyl surge started in 2013 with overdose deaths because of heroin laced with fentanyl. The Drug Enforcement Agency reported a 300% increase with fentanyl encounters from 2014 to 2015.

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The Center for Disease Control reported 9580 deaths caused by synthetic opioids. This was a 72% increase from 2014. Further to this, the CDC reported the number of deaths doubled each year from 2013 to 2016.   Young adults between the ages of 25 to 34 accounted for the most deaths. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have identified China as the primary source of illicit fentanyl. Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is made in labs where the potency can be increased. When it reaches the shores of the United States, it is often cut into other drugs. Producers of illegal fentanyl require less time and space to make the drug. Unfortunately, the drug can be manufactured in small labs and shipped easily to the United States.

Most of the fentanyl being distributed throughout the United States is being ordered online. It is being shipped to the country via express consignment or direct mail. Fentanyl is also shipped to drug cartels in Mexico, where it is then smuggled into the United States. It is at this point where fentanyl is diluted with other drugs and is about 10% pure. The fentanyl being shipped international mail is usually 90% pure.