Fentanyl, the most powerful painkiller in the world, is being added to heroin or being made into counterfeit prescription drugs and killing hundreds of people a day in the States. US authorities warned on Monday November 4th that "mass quantities" of counterfeit prescription drugs laced with the opioid fentanyl are being produced in Mexico for distribution in North America.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. It was produced for pain management in the treatment of cancer patients and applied in a patch on the skin. However, it is also added to heroin to increase its potency, which often results in overdose deaths, according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Based on a sampling of tablets seized nationwide in the US this year, the DEA found that 27% contained fentanyl.
As little as two milligrams of the drug can cause death. However, reaction depends on an individual's physical size, tolerance, previous consumption and other factors. Fentanyl was the cause of pop-star Prince’s death in 2016 and it is believed, like others, he had no idea what he was taking. The synthetic opioid has caused more than 100 deaths daily in the US.
According to the DEA's acting chief, Uttam Dhillon, Mexican drug cartels "are now sending counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in bulk to the United States for distribution."
He added, "Counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin are responsible for thousands of opioid-related deaths in the United States each year."
According to The Guardian newspaper, citing Lieutenant Tracy Morris, “The number of people overdosing is staggering.” Morris is the commander of special investigations who manages the narcotics task force in Orange County, which has seen a flood of the drug across the Mexican border. “It is truly scary. They don’t even know what they’re taking,” she added.
On average, around 130 people are dying daily in the US from opioid overdoses. The drug itself is known to be more robust compared to heroin with just a few milligrams enough to cause death.
In May, China, seized all production of fentanyl, an action applauded by the administration of Donald Trump. However, experts say that such an action could encourage its production elsewhere, including Mexico, AFP reported.