I’ve written blogs before about America’s love of opioid medications for pain control and the resulting opioid epidemic in this country. Inevitably, effective pain medications tend to be abused and then become more difficult to obtain legally by prescription, and they eventually make their way to “street drug” status.
Americans statistically are the largest consumers of the world’s natural and synthetic opioids, and it’s estimated that between 100 to 150 Americans are dying from overdoses of these powerful pain killers every day. Many of these drugs are obtained on the black market and the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis was instituted last year to address this crisis, which has been labeled a national emergency.
The synthetic opioid medication fentanyl is one of those prescription medications highly abused as a black market, street drug. It’s very potent—approximately 100 times more potent than morphine—and the prescribed dose to be an effective pain killer is small. In recent years, the availability of fentanyl on the streets as a black market drug has left a trail of death in its path. Just a few grains—a mere two (2) milligrams—can be fatal to a human.
Now, there is an even more potent synthetic opioid called carfentanil that has legitimate medical uses but has evolved into the latest black market, synthetic opioid readily available on the Internet for purchase.
Carfentanil was first synthesized in 1974 by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, but it was never approved for use in humans due to its super potency as a pain killer and sedative. It’s approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl (and about 10,000 times more potent than morphine). A mere speck of the drug is enough to kill a person.
The United States government allows for the legal use of carfentanil under its Schedule II prescription status ONLY for veterinary use to sedate large animals—such as elephants. A simple Google search, however, of “synthetic opioid and Chinese pharmacies” results in the ability to purchase 100 grams of this highly potent drug without a prescription for about $750, to be shipped “by discreet courier” overnight. That 100-gram amount of carfentanil would translate to be enough drug to cause a staggering five million overdoses.
Some have labeled carfentanil as a weapon of mass destruction because of its easy availability and its lethal potential in small doses. My first novel, Lethal Medicine, addressed the flow of illegal drugs from China in its primary plot, and to this day that book still imparts a relevant message. However, the drugs of today seem to continue their flow from China, but now with enhanced ease and even greater national harm.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!