2021 was a record-breaking year in the United States regarding drug overdose deaths. Over 100,000 people died, the largest number ever recorded. The prevalence of artificial chemicals has caused this latest overdose crisis, as they are cut into the drugs, particularly fentanyl.
These compounded drugs make them more potent, deadlier, and addictive than crack, cocaine, crystal meth, and other street drugs. They give users an instant and intense high, knocking them out immediately.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid or painkiller developed for use during surgeries. However, its chemical structure makes it extremely easy to modify and illegally mix with other chemicals to create different fentanyl-based compounds with a wide range of side effects but are highly potent and deadly.
When taking regular, pure fentanyl, you can feel yourself getting high - and the high does not last very long. "It has no legs", to quote Keisha, the "ethical" drug dealer in the Vice documentary "Benzo Dope and Tranq: The Next Wave of the overdose crisis."
When taking these new mixes, you don't even remember getting high, and you either wake up hours later or overdose. With these chemically enhanced fentanyl variants out in the open drug market, buying drugs and getting a quick fix becomes a game of chance. And since they have such horrible effects, choosing to deal only uncut drugs or pure fentanyl is considered the "ethical" choice.
The most popular and lethal of these new compounds is Benzo-dope, or fentanyl mixed with benzodiazepines, a class of drugs that function as sedatives and slow brain responses down. It provides an extremely high risk for overdosing as well as seizures. Naloxone, a drug given to reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose, has no impact on Benzo dope and taking pure fentanyl is safer. Benzo dope is very hard to regulate or track and trace. They are usually homemade, using ingredients you can find in your kitchen or pantry.
Another drug growing in popularity and linked to almost 30% of drug overdose deaths in 2021 is Tranq or fentanyl mixed with Xylazine, a horse tranquilizer not approved for human use.
Xylazine extends the high or euphoric effects of fentanyl. But it wreaks havoc with your central nervous system, causing amnesia and your heart rate and blood pressure plummeting to dangerously low levels. It also causes sores that don't heal, causing the loss of fingers and other body parts where they administer the drug.
An even more significant cause for concern is that many of these ingredients needed to make your stash of synthetic drugs can be easily purchased in specially built online stores, and they are just a google search away. Since the US banned the importation of pure fentanyl from China, these synthetic drugs are now becoming more common and will continue to do so in the next few years. There are also little to no recovery programs for addicts, making it harder to help them quit.
We can only hope that one day soon, this growing tide of synthetic drugs will end, and everyone will get the help needed to quit and stay clean.