Diane Dimond: America’s heroin epidemic just got more deadly
It is an opioid that’s 10,000 times more potent than morphine. A minuscule dose, no bigger than a snowflake, can kill a person on contact. Carfentanil is a synthetic anesthetic designed to tranquilize elephants.
So why in the world is such a deadly ingredient being mixed with heroin? Perhaps its smarter to ask: Who is doing it and why?
While investigators work to figure out the source of this fresh poison its clear carfentanil has hit American streets with a vengeance. In Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, during a two-week period in late August more than 200 people overdosed on the deadly mixture. Three people died. Recent increases in overdose cases have also been reported. If your town has a drug problem the carfentanil scourge might be headed your way too.
As if heroin wasn’t a big enough kick in itself, right?
Drug dealers have long been stretching out their supply of heroin by adding in all sorts of things — from baking soda to baby powder.
Apparently hardcore drug addicts got wise and demanded a more potent kick. Dealers then started adding in potentially deadly fentanyl, which can be 50 times stronger than heroin. In recent years, police departments and hospitals across the country have reported a marked increase of fentanyl-laced heroin overdoses and deaths. Reportedly, the music legend Prince died from a fentanyl overdose.
Enter now carfentanil, which experts say is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. It is so deadly that touching it or breathing in a miniscule amount can be fatal. First responders in several states have been instructed to stop conducting field tests on drugs found near overdose victims. They are to carefully pack up the evidence and send it to the crime lab for testing. In addition, EMTs and police in the most affected states are being issued their own doses of the antidote naloxone (also known as Narcan), which immediately blocks a person’s opiate receptors and shocks them out of the overdose state. However, naloxone may not help those who have ingested carfentanil.
“(Naloxone) was meant for heroin,” Ohio Sheriff Jim Neil of Hamilton County told reporters, “It wasn’t meant (to counter) fentanyl or carfentanil.”
Emergency first responders have had to use up to five doses of the antidote, per victim, as they struggle with the growing number of overdose cases and even that is sometimes not effective. The situation has become so pervasive in Ohio the Cincinnati Enquirer has now assigned a reporter to exclusively cover the heroin beat.
It seems counterintuitive that a drug dealer would want to sell a product that kills off their customers. But in the hazy-thinking world of addicts it can actually be a draw, according to Joseph Pinjuh, chief of the Organized Crime and Narcotics Unit for the U.S. attorney in Cleveland.
“They know that’s the high that’ll take you right up to the edge, maybe kill you, maybe not,” said Pinjuh. And, “That’s the high that they want.”
It’s hard to understand such self-destructive thinking but it surely exists or we wouldn’t have this nationwide problem.
Back to the questions of who is spiking heroin with deadly carfentanil and why. The why is simple: money. The who is harder to determine.
There have been arrests of suspected dealers but no admissions that they handled carfentanil. So is the heroin arriving in this country already laced with this poison?
Experts say China sells the powerful sedative online but they have found little evidence of Chinese carfentanil here. The other primary source is Mexico and that country is already known for transporting record amounts of both heroin and fentanyl across our southern border.
Let’s face it, Mexico has long been a major supplier of heroin into the United States. But it’s also a fact that if we could only reduce the number of addicts here in America Mexican sellers would likely take their misery-inducing product elsewhere.
The cold hard fact is we are failing as a nation on both fronts — keeping narco-terrorists out of our country and helping our fellow citizens afflicted with the disease of drug abuse. Would it be too much to hope that our next president, whoever he or she may be, will put the heroin epidemic on the front public policy burner? Why is it that we hear so very little from the candidates about this ever growing menace that has crippled so many American cities?
As Dan Horrigan, the mayor of Akron, Ohio put it, “This is a public health crisis. We cannot arrest our way to sobriety.”
Ain’t that the truth.