Fentanyl: An Origin Story

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The drug that’s been making headlines in recent months because of its deadly potency is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is 50 – 100 times stronger than morphine and is the most fatal opioid in the world today.  Like many other illicit drugs, there is a tangled web of money, crime, trafficking, and deception that surrounds fentanyl. By exploring its origins we can begin to understand how fentanyl has become one of the most widely abused opioid drugs in the world today, and how to help educate others about it.

What is Fentanyl Made From?

Fentanyl was developed in 1959 and was used as a pain medication and anesthetic. It is still used in clinical settings to treat severe and chronic pain. Fentanyl is what is known as a 4-anilopiperidine class synthetic opioid and is created using a precursor chemical called N-Phenethyl-Piperidone (NPP) that is synthesized into fentanyl through a chemical process that involves various reagents and solvents. 

Where is Fentanyl Made?

Illicit fentanyl is manufactured in countries where the pharmaceutical industry is unregulated. Most of the fentanyl in the United States today is imported from China, but may also come from underground laboratories in Mexico or India. One of the issues with trying to regulate the illicit production of fentanyl is that it is impossible to ban all of the chemicals that can be used to create the drug, especially if a fentanyl operation has a competent chemist on board that knows how to create the necessary chemical compounds. 

Why are Drugs Laced with Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is, in some respects, a silent killer. There are drug dealers who combine fentanyl with other illicit substances like heroin, cocaine, and prescription medication, often without the consumer’s knowledge or consent. Because fentanyl is so powerful and easy to obtain, it can be used to strengthen already “cut” drugs, but not without a serious risk to the buyer. 

Less than 2 milligrams of fentanyl is the minimum lethal dose, and even smaller doses can be deadly when combined with other medications. Because fentanyl has become so widespread, it is possible that any drug obtained illicitly, even prescription medications such as Xanax, will contain a lethal amount of fentanyl. 

How Fentanyl Makes It Into The Hands Of Drug Dealers

Fentanyl is easy to smuggle because small amounts of the drug produce the desired effect, and is more profitable than other street drugs as a result. Although there are smuggling operations that import larger amounts of fentanyl at a time, it can be purchased on the dark web and then mailed to customers in the United States using traditional shipping methods like USPS. While there is an effort to crack down on the opioid crisis by regulating the pharmaceutical industry in China among other strategies, it’s important to educate yourself and others about the dangers of fentanyl and the harm it causes. 

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At Quest 2 Recovery, our holistic treatment philosophy is focused on the unique needs of the individual. Our knowledgeable and professional team members offer incredible support and guidance to everyone who attends one of our programs and also help oversee the practical details involved with attending treatment to make your path to recovery as smooth as possible. With a trauma-based approach in a safe, family-like environment, we offer medical detox and tailored treatment plans to help people of all ages learn more about and resolve the underlying issues that cause substance abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, contact us today.

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