There are actually TWO opioid epidemics in the United States. You know the one where people are taking too many prescription painkillers, but there’s also a lot synthetic opioids that are being produced outside the country and ending up in the United States.
Let’s first look at the prescription painkiller front, which is primarily a domestic issue.
You go to your doctor because you’re in pain, and they prescribe opioids. Plain and simple. You might be working in a field that involves a lot of physical strength and end up with aches and pains or even severe back pain, and then you go to the doctor. Many painkillers have addictive properties, but opioids are actually quite strong, which is why they are so favorable. Moreover, doctors are incentivized to provide patients with what they need to be comfortable and pain-free. When the patient comes back again wanting an even stronger dose, the doctor then has to question whether or not the patient is getting hooked but usually doesn’t do much thinking on that subject and simply increases the dose. Since opioids themselves actually increase pain sensitivity, you end up less able to cope with even lighter aches and pains than before ou started taking the opioids. Alongside your brain telling you that you crave higher doses, you actually need higher doses, as well.
Additional risk factors that contribute to this addiction include those are who are already hooked on other drugs, teenagers and young adults, and people who are suffering from severe forms of long-term depression.
This now accounts for a little less than 50% of all opioid deaths in the United States.
Synthetic opioids account for more than half as of 2016. They’re not made by pharmaceutical companies, and they are intended to exploit their addictive properties, ruining people’s lives.
You may have heard the names fentanyl, carfentanil, and others. You may not have heard of U47700, AH-7921, MT-45, W-18. Fentanyl has become quite popular in political conversations. China has technically banned fentanyl, but right after that, carfentanil became a huge export from China so they’re not really doing much except changing the formula. In fact, U47700, also from China, is transdermal. That means the chemical seeps in through your skin. You don’t even need an open sore or a cut because it’ll go through your pores. So, if you touch U47700, you’re gonna get the same effect as if you snort it, inject it, etc. In some cases, it’s going to kill you. In fact, Mexican drug cartels accepting shipment of U47700 from China and smuggling it into the United States have to wear gloves when they handle it so that they don’t get killed.
So, if you touch U47700, you’ll get the same effects as if you snort it, inject it, etc. In some cases, it’s going to kill you. In fact, Mexican drug cartels accepting shipment of U47700 from China and smuggling it into the United States have to wear gloves when they handle it so that they don’t get killed.
You can read more about synthetics as well as many precursor chemicals that are being used to create fentanyl and others by reading this State Department report. The document is 297 pages so it’ll take some time, but I recommend it if you’re obsessed with details like I am. Fun fact: the country of Benin in Sub-Saharan Africa is being comparatively impactful in this fight relative to its small size.
So how exactly are these opioids killing people?