What is Fentanyl and How is it Being Brought into the United States?

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid first created by Dr. Paul Janssen in the late 1950s. Belgian Dr. Janssen was working with phenyl piperidines, one of which was already on the market. Meperidine, brand name Demerol, had already been synthesized from the phenyl piperidines by the Germans in the 1930s. Dr. Janssen was looking for something stronger and without some of the limitations of meperidine. Well, he found it. Fentanyl was hailed as a boon to surgical anesthesia under the trade name Sublimaze and as a painkiller for extreme pain. In recent years, fentanyl has become a major concern for the public and for the DEA and other government officials. This article will discuss the following: What is fentanyl and how is it being brought into the United States?

How Did it Get So Bad?

Fentanyl wasn’t used out of the hospital or medical setting until rather recently, in the mid-1990s, when it was introduced as a skin patch called Duragesic. The patch holds 72 hours’ worth of fentanyl, which is slowly released over a 3-day period. It’s supplied in doses of 25, 50, 75 and 100 micrograms. That’s micrograms, not milligrams. A microgram is one-millionth of one gram. Fentanyl is very powerful. It’s the main reason why it’s so dangerous. Another reason is because it’s really not that hard to make. One-pot synthesis recipes are available on the internet for anyone who cares to look for them.

Fentanyl is also produced in rogue, clandestine chemical labs located mainly in China, Mexico and more recently, India. It’s profitable, easy to make by chemistry standards and easy to ship and smuggle because of the small amounts needed to make big profits. The pure drug is shipped to the target country and then typically cut at that time. Dealers use lactose or other inert substances to dilute the deadly drug and prepare it for sale. Overdoses are common because your average dealer stepping on the stuff in his garage or whatever has zero knowledge of chemistry. It’s very difficult to safely mix pure fentanyl into a cut substance like lactose.

In fact, legitimate pharmaceutical companies selling fentanyl on the legal market never try to cut dry fentanyl into a dry substance. Hot spots containing fatal amounts of fent can occur no matter how much you mix it. Pharmaceutical companies use other methods to accurately figure fentanyl dosing. It takes an expert to safely produce a fentanyl product, and you can be sure your average street dealer is far from an expert. They’re just looking at profits. No wonder fentanyl causes so many deaths.

Mexican Fentanyl

Also coming from Mexico is an influx of potentially deadly counterfeit oxycodone pills. These look like the legitimate oxycodone tablets sold by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, but they’re really made of fentanyl. These tablets are a very light blue, round, with a capital M inside a box on one side, hence the street moniker m-box. Depending on the cut, these tablets may taste faintly of laundry detergent. This is one giveaway because a legitimate oxycodone tablet will always have a strong, peculiar and very bitter taste. These illicit pills contain no oxycodone and are made of fillers and fentanyl instead. Is the dose safe? Who knows? There are fentanyl test strips available online, but not everyone uses them. Besides, the strips only tell you if fent is there or not, not how much or what other toxins may be present.

Fentanyl Precursors

Rogue labs do more than just make fentanyl. They also supply other labs and underground chemists with the precursor chemicals needed to make the drug. China has appeared recently to cooperate to stem the fent flow by moving to restrict precursor chemicals on their end. They began surveillance of suspect labs, prowled the internet and shut down rogue sites selling fent, investigated tips and leads and scrutinized shipments from customs. These moves are important because Chinese chemists tend to produce fentanyl at a 90 percent or better purity. In contrast, Mexican fent is often at 10 percent purity or less. This is still enough to kill, but it’s not as bad as the Chinese fent.

It appears that the Chinese pressure had the intended effect because their rogue labs may have relocated to India. It’s just a big game of whack-a-mole. Shut one down, two more take their place. Shut those down and three more appear. In fact, the DEA fully expects the future flow of fent into the United States to be fully diversified.

Do you Need Help?

If you’re taking fentanyl or buying so-called oxycodone tablets on the street, you may be risking your life. Your next dose could be your last. Please call us at 833-820-2922 anytime, and let us help you find the solutions and treatment you need. We’re here waiting to help.