For those of you who are not familiar with Fentanyl, it’s a synthetic opioid that is intended to be used as an acute pain reliever in place of morphine. The big difference is that it is typically listed as being between 50 and 100 times more powerful. How powerful, a single grain of Fentanyl the size of a grain of sand is enough to give a person a heroin-like high. Two grains this size is enough to kill a healthy adult.
When used in a hospital setting, the dose is administered via a patch over 48 to 72 hours. On the street, this crystalline powder is typically mixed with other drugs such as ecstasy to achieve specific results. The extreme potency of this drug is what Fentanyl abusers seek out and what makes it so dangerous. Over 49,000 people died of Fentanyl overdose in the U.S. in 2017, and the epidemic is only getting worse.
How Did the Fentanyl Crisis Start?
One of the largest reasons behind the Fentanyl crisis is the fact that this drug is so cheap to manufacture. Add to this the fact that the vast majority of it comes from China in small shipments that are virtually impossible to catch on their way through customs. At current prices, one-kilo of Fentanyl sells on the black market for approximately $20,000, but by the time it hits the streets, that same kilo is worth $20 million.
Another major source is the number of physicians who have been over-prescribing pain medications for decades. Many gave patients open-ended refills that led to significant abuse and a thriving market for leftover medications and duplicate prescriptions. Then there is the government who still seems to be sitting on their hindquarters instead of coming up with a successful plan to open more treatment centers and safe injection sites rather than clogging up the prison system, which does no good whatsoever.
The Challenges Law Enforcement Faces with Fentanyl Abuse
First and foremost, due to the methods used by importers, customs agents have a tough time detecting the shipments due to the vast quantities of shipments coming into the U.S. from China. With prison overcrowding already pushing prisons past the point at which their seams are bursting, ineffective sentencing laws have done very little to discourage the black market.
With the number of suppliers steadily increasing, finding a new source and setting up business has never been easier. Making it almost impossible for Law Enforcement Officers to stay on top of the growing number of dealers. Merely handling Fentanyl can be dangerous as the many officers who have been hospitalized because of it. To make matters worse, an officer never knows when they will encounter the drug or under what circumstances.
Is There a Solution to the Fentanyl Crisis?
The key to solving the Fentanyl crisis lies in education. Law Enforcement Officers need to be taught more about community policing and harm reduction. At the same time, making sure officers have access to Naloxone in their drug testing kits is a good step in the right direction.
But, it takes long-term efforts like cutting back on the number of prescriptions written for these drugs, increasing the number of prescription fraud investigations, and increased funding for safe injection sites, and addiction counseling are all long-term strategies for reducing the Fentanyl crisis.