Why do dealers of heroin, which has made a meteoric comeback, cut it with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent?
It boils down to economics, reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Heroin is stronger and cheaper than pharmaceutical opioids and is therefore attractive to users whose addictions began with prescription drugs.
And fentanyl, lethal as it is, is stronger and cheaper than heroin.
By adding fentanyl, dealers are able to augment a diluted supply of heroin or offer users a stronger kick.
“Obviously, there are no regulations, no quality controls,” said Robert Bell, assistant special agent in charge of Drug Enforcement Administration’s Milwaukee district office.
In other words, it's a guess how much fentanyl to add, Bell said.
"You don't have to be wrong by much to kill somebody," he said.
Fentanyl looks the same as heroin; users have no idea which they are using. And fentanyl available on the street is made in illegal labs — not pharmaceutical companies — so the quality or consistency varies.
Used correctly, fentanyl can work wonders, easing extreme pain in patients. Used incorrectly, an amount the size of three grains of sand can be deadly. The musician Prince died of a fentanyl overdose, and the drug is becoming so widespread that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it has reached the level of another national health crisis.
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