Opioid addiction has morphed into the most significant drug crisis seen in decades on the streets of America. The drug fentanyl is on the front line of this new drug war.
Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller that’s typically prescribed. Dealers add it to heroin with devastating effects.
The Chicago Tribune reported fentanyl was once a minor player in the drug crisis. However, the painkiller is 50 times more powerful than heroin and is directly linked to thousands of overdoses and fatalities.
The overdoses are centered on cities. In the nation’s 25 largest cities and the counties around them, fentanyl-related overdose deaths rose nearly 600 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to health departments
A report in the Washington Post noted 582 fatal overdoses linked to fentanyl in 2014. In 2016, the figure was a staggering 3,946.
Officials believe the number fatal fentanyl-related overdoses will be even higher in 2017.
Cook County, Illinois, saw a 2,700 percent increase in fatal fentanyl-related overdoses in those two years.
The number of deaths linked to fentanyl rose from 20 in 2014 to 562 in 2016. The city of Columbus in Ohio at the epicenter of the epidemic. The number of fatal overdoses went from 13 two years ago to 111 in 2016.
Fentanyl and the Origins of the Opioid Crisis
The current opioid epidemic originated in the 1990s. The American pharmaceutical industry developed a range of new opioid painkillers like OxyContin. These drugs were marketed as safer and less likely to be abused than their predecessors.
Opioids started to be prescribed for a wide range of illnesses. In communities already hit by unemployment and substance abuse, some doctors dispensed these painkillers too freely. When officials sought to cut down on illegitimate prescriptions, the street price of the opioids spiked. Many users turned to cheaper heroin, mostly imported from Mexico.
The issue became more serious when dealers started mixing illicit fentanyl to heroin to counter users who developed a tolerance. The result was deaths spiking as users became addicted to a new family of powerful fentanyl-laced heroin.
In August, Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed a federal crackdown on doctors and pharmacies that exploit the opioid crisis.
In a speech in Ohio, one of the state’s worst impacted by the crisis, he detailed a new analytics program that will analyze drug prescriptions and sales, reported the New York Daily News.
A new opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit has been set up to operate in hard-hit areas of California, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. The units will investigate doctors and pharmacies that prescribe opioids at a higher level than their counterparts.
Drug dealing is taken very seriously in Illinois by federal and state authorities as well as robberies at pharmacies that are fueling the crisis. If you have been charged with this crime, please contact our experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyers at (312) 229-0008.