In the past year, more and more frequently, fentanyl has been the cause of the steadily rising number of drug overdoses in Nevada and across the country. Often, people start out using prescription painkillers, and then when they can no longer afford the pills or get enough of them to maintain their addiction, they turn to heroin. Though illegal, heroin is far easier to get than prescription painkillers for many people and far less expensive. Unfortunately, it is just as dangerous. Since 2016, the addition of fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opiate to heroin sold on the street has triggered a spike in overdose deaths.
The first question might be: Why? Why would drug dealers lace their product with a substance that is deadly in such small amounts? Why would they risk killing their customers?
It could be assumed that the overdoses are an accident, that they could be the result of overzealous dealers who are not scrupulous in their measuring and mixing. But when they happen so often, this reasoning becomes suspect. Some who are recently out of active addiction and on the road to recovery have a theory.
Says Cam S. of Las Vegas: “People don’t seem to understand: hearing that a batch of heroin might have fentanyl in is no deterrent when you are an addict. Not to everyone, anyway. It wasn’t to me. When I would hear that someone died because a batch had too much fentanyl, my first thought, honestly, was, ‘I gotta get some of that. THAT is the good stuff.’ My tolerance was so high that I couldn’t get well off heroin alone. I needed more than that. And if someone ODed after dosing, then you know it’s going to be strong.”
While it may not necessarily be the intent – to give someone a dose that is too high in fentanyl purposefully in order to get more customers when the word gets out that the batch was so strong it killed someone – it may be the result in some cases. At a certain point, more and more heroin doesn’t increase the high. People who are struggling to simply avoid withdrawal symptoms – or “stay well” – may be ready to take the risk of using fentanyl-laced heroin in order to ensure they avoid withdrawal.
Profit over People
It goes without saying that drug dealers who sell deadly substances to people who are struggling with a crippling disease, while also contributing to savage corruption and killing in the countries where these substances originate, are less concerned about their customers than they are about their bottom line. However, the fact that overdoses are occurring in such high numbers across the country and having the effect of spurring sales brings a new dimension to the discussion about whether or not drug dealers should be charged with murder.