Crackdowns on heroin, pain pills gave rise to fentanyl overdose epidemic | Alternet
A new report on illicit U.S. drug markets from researchers at the University of San Francisco has found that the spread of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid implicated in nearly 29,000 overdose deaths last year alone, is tied to enforcement-driven shortages of heroin and prescription opioids, as well as simple economics for drug distributors—not because users particularly desire the drug.
Illicit fentanyl has swept through American drug markets in waves—the super strong “China white” heroin of the 1970s was actually a heroin-fentanyl mixture—most recently in the past decade after rising levels of opioid addiction and the spread of “pill mills” prompted multifaceted moves to restrict opioid prescribing.
From a drug distributor’s perspective, fentanyl is a most excellent substitute for heroin or prescription pain pills. Produced entirely in labs or chemical factories, it is far more powerful and cheaper to produce than heroin. Because it’s more potent, it is easier to smuggle—often coming into the U.S. via postal and delivery service parcels, not by the semi load. And it doesn’t require months of growing time and periods of intense peasant labor in lawless regions of weak states.
Meanwhile, several countries have decriminalized all drugs and focus on treatment of addiction instead of throwing everyone into prison. Their addiction rates have plummeted, along with overdose deaths.
Here in the US, insanity reigns and rules, literally.