The dark cloud behind the silver lining; heroin’s downfall is due to fentanyl’s rising popularity

The dark cloud behind the silver lining; heroin’s downfall is due to fentanyl’s rising popularity

August 29, 2019

The dark cloud behind the silver lining; heroin’s downfall is due to fentanyl’s rising popularity

Addiction Substance Abuse

Heroin is one of the deadliest opioids in the U.S. during the early 1960s. Cities like Baltimore and Portland reeled under the crime and chaos fueled by the drug. However, it has been observed that despite heroin’s long-standing history in the Eastern Seaboard and in some parts of the Midwest, the presence of the drug is gradually diminishing.

Even New York City, the drug distribution capital of the country, has seen a lesser quantity of heroin in 2018-2019 as compared to the previous years. This has brought temporary relief for the law enforcement authorities and public health departments as once the real reason for its disappearance comes out, it would seem that the deadly snake of drugs has not been defeated but has reared another one of its ugly heads.

The “real” reason behind heroin’s disappearance

The main reason behind the diminishing presence of heroin is the growing popularity of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid nearly 50 to 80 times stronger than heroin. It is cheaper to produce and easier to distribute. The swing from heroin to fentanyl has put long time heroin users at an increased risk of death due to an overdose of fentanyl. According to federal data, in 2017, the rate of overdose-related deaths among people aged between 55 to 64 years had increased by 54 percent in 2017.

Another trend being noticed is that the disappearance of heroin is taking its toll on long-time users belonging to the African-American ethnicity and older community. A study suggested that overdoses related to fentanyl have increased by 61 percent amongst the African-American community compared to a 45 percent increase amongst Caucasians.

Why is fentanyl everywhere?

Law enforcement authorities and public health officials are both equally worried at the rapid rate at which fentanyl is spreading throughout the nation. Experts feel that the widespread use of fentanyl can be attributed to one reason: economic profit. It has been reported that profits from fentanyl are way more than that from heroin.

In fact, dealers and traffickers from Mexico order synthetically manufactured fentanyl from China or even manufacture them in small temporary labs before pushing them into the U.S. It requires less labor and time than cultivating poppy for heroin production. Also, with the scarce availability of prescription painkillers, fentanyl provides a cheaper but potent alternative.

Dangers of fentanyl

Even though the deaths due to drug overdose involving heroin are on a decline, the overall overdose-related deaths have been on a climb due to fentanyl. For example:

  • Out of 397 reported opioid-related deaths in New Hampshire last year, only 4 involved heroin whereas 363 were because of fentanyl
  • Overdose deaths due to heroin came down from 71 percent to 34 percent in 2018 within 4 years in Massachusetts
  • Even for the national average, deaths due to heroin came down by 7 percent in 2018 as compared to the previous year

Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a family physician and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, said that according to the current scenario, heroin in fact looks safer that fentanyl.

Law enforcement agencies have reported less seizures of heroin, whereas confiscations related to fentanyl have increased. Patrick Trainor, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said that in some neighborhoods where heroin usage was rampant once upon a time, it has now pretty much been replaced by fentanyl. He further added that it is nearly impossible to find heroin now.

Handling the opioid crisis

The federal government has stepped up their fight against the opioid epidemic. Several programs and initiatives are being initiated all over the country by various departments and agencies. Projects like the needle exchange programs distributing clean needles have been started to keep a check on diseases that are spread due to needle sharing. The availability of fentanyl test strips (FTS) has been increased so that people can check if their drugs contain traces of fentanyl.

Jon DeLena, the associate special agent in charge of the DEA’s New England field division called fentanyl a magic dust – magically producing huge amounts of money for dealers. Fentanyl can be mixed with other drugs and pressed into legal pills like Xanax. It is easier to dilute fentanyl due to its high potency level. He added that dealers who have started selling fentanyl will never ever go back to selling heroin again.

To help control the flow of fentanyl in the U.S., China recently decided to ban all variants of fentanyl but as a class, however, the ban would not affect the procurement of the main chemicals that are required to manufacture the drug. Apart from all that, some officials like Katherine Pfaff, a spokeswoman for the DEA, called the notion of heroin disappearing as misleading. She said that the drop in death rates involving heroin was due to overdose reversal drugs and not because of a lower number of heroin users.

Treatment for heroin addiction

An addiction of any drug is a menace and an addiction to opioids like heroin and fentanyl, if left untreated, can lead to serious mental health disorders and physical problems. Drug addiction treatment requires medically supervised detox treatment to flush out the toxins from the body along with therapy and counselling sessions to bring about complete recovery.

Although severe and chronic opioid addiction is fatal, it is treatable with timely intervention. If you or a loved one is battling an addiction to heroin or any other drug and is looking for reliable heroin detox centers, get in touch with the Invictus Health Group. We can connect you with state-of-the-art centers offering the latest in heroin abuse treatment. Call our 24/7 helpline 866-548-0190 or chat online with our experts who can guide you during your admission process in our network facilities.

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