There’s a new opioid epidemic, and it’s stronger and more deadly than heroin—the painkiller fentanyl, which frequently is used to lace other drugs and which was responsible for the singer Prince’s death earlier this year.
The synthetic drug has already beaten heroin to become the deadliest drug in Long Island, New Hampshire, and many other vulnerable parts of the country, the New York Times reported. It’s cheaper than heroin and 50 times stronger—and more deadly. Drug dealers frequently lace heroin with fentanyl to save money, and it is sometimes sold in pill form under the guise that it’s oxycodone or hydrocodone, prescription pills that are less dangerous than fentanyl. It's also sometimes legally prescribed in small doses to treat severe pain.
Fentanyl is so dangerous, in fact, that police officers have to wear gloves when handling it, because even a small amount getting on the skin can be fatal.
“Without the fentanyl, shooting heroin’s like shooting water — you build up a tolerance,” said Andrew Giordano, 26, who overdosed on a fentanyl-heroin mixture earlier this year and is now in rehab, to the Times.
In New York City, more than 1,000 people have died from drug overdoses this year—more than any other time in recorded history—and nearly half of those cases since July have involved fentanyl, the New York Times reported.
“It’s essentially the serial killer of drugs,” said Jeffrey Sheridan, an addiction counselor. “It’s not something you can use for any kind of duration and survive.”