Painkiller Turned Into Illegal Street Drugs

For two years a high number of deaths have been caused by the illegal street version of a painkiller we know as fentanyl. It has killed over 1,000 people according to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many of the fatal overdoses occurred between 2005 and 2007 before the police were able to find many of the places that the drugs were being supplied from. That outbreak was the first time illicitly produced fentanyl was linked to such a large increase in deaths in the U.S., as opposed to fatalities from heroin or other drugs commonly sold on the street.

Fentanyl is a strong prescription painkiller that is manufactured by many pharmaceutical companies and is usually taken in the form of a lollipop or patch. It is often given to patients who are suffering from cancer or who have other severe and chronic pains.

It can be made by rogue chemists into a lethal narcotic powder that is much more powerful than heroin, said T. Stephen Jones, a consultant and former CDC official who was the report’s lead author. This illegal powder version can be sold mixed with cocaine or heroin or as a substitute for heroin.

A cluster of deaths in Camden, N.J., first brought the matter to officials’ attention. Health and law-enforcement officials then identified similar waves in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and other areas, according to a report published Thursday. The report tallied at least 1,013 deaths, though its lead author said many deaths likely went unreported.

The 2005-07 outbreak largely subsided after officials shut down a fentanyl-producing operation in Mexico suspected as the main source. Still, the CDC report noted that painkillers continue to play a big role in fatal drug overdoses, and said deaths from unintentional drug poisonings doubled to 22,448 between 1999 and 2005.

July 26th, 2008 • tonks • Medications and Drugs, News and Opinion Comments Off


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