The massive availability and use of powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl, the most powerful drug known to man, and new more potent versions of meth, like P2P, are causing a growing problem in the United States.
Both drugs are now available “coast to coast” like never before. Overdose deaths rose during the Covid-19 pandemic, and in 2021, more than 100,000 people died in the U.S. of drug overdoses, about 71,000 of those deaths were related to synthetic opioids, according to the CDC.
Children and teens who ingest fake prescription pills and tiny candies laced with Fentanyl are becoming seriously ill or dying every week in America. Meanwhile, P2P, a very easily produced type of Meth, is ravaging the streets of the United States and increasing addiction, severe mental health issues, and homelessness.
At the Ethnic Media Services briefing, two guests had a front-row seat to this crisis.
Sam Quinones is a journalist, storyteller, former LA Times reporter, and author of four acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction. His most recent book is The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth, released in 2021. The book follows his 2015 release, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Bloomsbury Press.
John is an ER Doctor from a major western city (he has agreed to speak on condition of anonymity).
EMS asked John a doctor in the ER to share his experiences so we could begin to understand the impact of these new more damaging drugs that are causing drug abuse and overdoses and take people to the ER.
He shared his experience in emergency rooms having lived in Chicago for multiple years and then moving back to the West Coast with overwhelming access to County Hospitals. The drug used to being seen there was very little methamphetamine and much more heroin and then soon Fentanyl became what was seen in the context of accidental overdoses on fentanyl. It often went from someone using heroin who would come in as an opiate overdose and then soon it became fentanyl. In some instances, it was an accidental overdose by someone trying to do heroin but accidentally did fentanyl. However, now what was being seen was exclusively people using fentanyl on purpose. When someone comes in and says, ‘I do fentanyl’ instead of ‘I do heroin’, that is a change that he has seen in the last year. It is primarily fentanyl that doctors are seeing, and that people are actually purposely using. Just like in any other city they have these overdose deaths with pills that look like Oxycontin pills and kids take. It is a big crisis, when talking to police officers, one of his buddies who is a police officer shared, that “you don’t want it on the street”, as they are having officers accidentally overdosed now.
“Because fentanyl is so easily aerosolized when they arrest somebody and they’re going through their belongings and trying to figure out if there’s a weapon you’ll have overdoses of officers and First Responders.”
Sam Quinones described fentanyl as an opioid and a depressant that has been used in surgery since 1960 when it was developed. Fentanyl in the surgical setting is a wonderful drug that gets you in and out of surgery. Unfortunately, it’s now being produced by the Mexican drug trafficking world in staggering quantities as methamphetamine.
“What has happened now is that we are now in an era of the synthetic. Synthetic drug traffickers in Mexico have basically transitioned away from plant drugs largely towards drugs that can be made in a lab with only chemicals and the main two are fentanyl and methamphetamine. Meth and Fentanyl have really covered the entire United States which has never happened before where one source, the Mexican trafficking world in this case has covered the entire country with not one but two of these very very potent and devastating drugs”.
Sam’s reporting on this came after he was writing a story down in Mexico, but towards the end of writing his book, he came upon people who told him about this psychosis-inducing quality of the drug.
“We are seeing so much meth psychosis all over the country and these two drugs primarily have been very major drivers in mental Illness, homelessness, and also leading to people into tent encampments which right now add a new form homeless across America”.
Stunning about both of these drugs is that they leave the user absolutely terrified of not having access to the drug so people will stay in tents even though they are offered housing or treatment and even though the temperature has dropped to very lethal levels, or snowing, you will find people’s brains absolutely controlled by these two drugs and living in their tent encampments.
According to Sam, this is a whole new world because it changes almost everything, how you make the drug, how much money you can make from them, and how you smuggle them. These two drugs have changed everything we have ever thought about drugs and drug addiction, and treatment.