Fentanyl is finding its way into the hands of more people than ever, this time aided by mail packages and anonymous online purchases.
The highly potent synthetic drug, originally intended to be a painkiller, has resulted in a shocking spike in the rates of deaths from opioid overdoses that have occurred predominantly in Massachusetts in the last two years.
Now, a report in the Boston Globe indicates that dark web drug vendors are raking in the profits from the sale of the cheap opioid and are using the postal service as the main conduit to ship the drug all over the country.
The Uncontainable Mexican Border
As expected, drug cartels are behind the importation of the drug across the US borders, according to law enforcement.
Fentanyl then finds its way to street-level drug vendors through a number of channels, with the hardest hit cities being Boston, Holyoke, and Springfield.
A lot of questions surround the apparently continuous fentanyl leak across the borders despite the recently authorized screening laws passed by Congress, which are yet to be implemented.
The bulk of fentanyl purchased by the average citizen is however sourced from dark web market platforms according to former Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem.
Screening of foreign packages might cut off the flow of fentanyl across the borders but will do nothing to the dark net markets, which, according to Kayyem, are “largely anonymous” and “very difficult to trace.”
The Shocking Statistics
Fentanyl is said to be about 50 times as potent as the much more expensive heroin. In the first nine months of 2016, 1,005 people have reportedly died from opioid.
This figure would have been higher if the number of fentanyl-related suicides was factored in. In 2015, the statistics were a lot grimmer as 1,574 deaths were reportedly caused by opioid overdoses.
Focus is now shifting from heroin as it becomes apparent that fentanyl has a much larger hand in this than was initially expected.
Deaths resulting from heroin overdose have significantly dropped, and more and more toxicology screens are pointing to fentanyl as the main culprit.
The percentage of deaths attributed to fentanyl alone has shot up from 66 percent to 74 percent in the last year’s second quarter.
Origins of Fentanyl
Fentanyl came into the drug scene back in the 50s as a very potent painkiller. As its detrimental effects were discovered eventually, it lost its legitimacy and gained popularity in the underground drug market, where it became a cheap additive for illicit street drugs (primarily heroin).
Fentanyl manufactured in China has been shipped to Mexico and distributed by drug cartels. Hampden DA Anthony Gulluni stated to MassLive that the I-95 route serves the purpose of getting these drugs across the country to the more populated urban centers such as Holyoke and Springfield.Hampden County has also faced its fair share of fentanyl-related drug overdoses.
According to Gulluni, the drug dealers mostly use the synthetic drug as a cheap way to fill out their heroin shipments.
Fentanyl is received in pill form before it is crushed and mixed with street heroin. He mentions that despite the proximity of his County to the Mexican border, most of the fentanyl that makes it there passes through the interstate highways through towns such as Hartford and New Haven.
Hampden County only provides intermediate points for the shipments, rather than connect the Mexican drug operation to the US.