The Epidemic of Fentanyl has arrived in Houston

Ana Andino

For most people when asking about fentanyl drug, they may think is just a synthetic opioid that doctors usually prescribe to chronic pain patients. Patients may know that it is very likely to acquire an addiction; however, most people don’t know how dangerous and even fatal just a small amount could be.


Fentanyl has been growing in a terrifying way in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate of synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl and Carfentanil increased by 100.0% from 2015 to 2016.


Fentanyl has been around since 1959. It was mainly used as an anesthetic and pain reliever for medical resolutions. During the 1960s it started to be used as an intravenous anesthetic called Sublimaze. It wasn’t until the middle of the 1990s when the fentanyl patch was introduced and could be used in the treatment of chronic pain, such as pain from cancer.


Fentanyl has been getting more popular in the United States. It mainly started around 2005 when drug dealers began adding fentanyl to heroin because it creates an intense high. The reason this drug is in such a high demand is due to the combination of the two drugs makes users feel drowsy, nauseated and confused, but also euphoric. Another reason fentanyl is popular among the drug dealers is because according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 1kg of heroin earns a return of around $50,000. A kilo of fentanyl brings in $1 million.


What is so dangerous about fentanyl?


Just one thousand micrograms are very likely to stop your breathing and kill you. What makes fentanyl even more frightening is that you don’t have to be a user to get the consequences of be a victim of it. A very small amount ingested, or absorbed through the skin, can kill you. Some of the effects of fentanyl are difficulty thinking, talking or walking, dizziness, confusion, trouble breathing (respiratory rate very slow, irregular or altogether stopped), low heartbeat, erratic heartbeat, or no heartbeat.


How is fentanyl affecting Houston?


Currently there are no statistics showing any numbers as to how bad fentanyl problem is affecting Houston. However, although use of it in Houston may not be as high as other states such as Ohio or Pennsylvania – which have been reported to be in the top 10 states for fentanyl. Still, there has been a crisis increase since 2014, according to the Huffpost. We can see that increased in the number of fentanyl cases coming and going through Houston.


On March 25, 2018, Fox News reported that three Texans were arrested in Ohio after they were caught with $1 million worth in fentanyl seized. The two males and females who were arrested were intending to mail the fentanyl to Texas. The fentanyl seized was enough to kill everyone in Toledo several times over.


In June 2017, Houston city officials announced that police officers had recently seized about 80 milligrams of a substance they thought was methamphetamine. Later that week the Houston Forensic Science Center confirm that it was carfentanil, same as fentanyl. They further stated that the 80 milligrams were equivalent to 4,000 lethal doses. In the same month of June 2017, there was another arrest and seizure of 100 grams of fentanyl in Katy. The suspect had picked up a package at a nearby post office. This package was shipped from an address in China.


In conclusion, fentanyl is a drug braking deadly overdose epidemic records. This epidemic is spreading all over the United States, including Houston. Fentanyl represents the latest wave of a high-demand drug and due to the high addiction for users and extremely profitable for dealers, it seems that is not going anywhere. The fentanyl epidemic has become perhaps the biggest challenge for police officers and other first responders since it is too toxic to touch. Even attempting to test it could be deadly. Some prevention police departments are using are protective gear like Tyvek suits and respirators.


Also, every patrol officer is required to carry a Narcan, the drug that reverses overdoses. Crime labs are looking for new ways to detect fentanyl without opening the bag. However, this drug epidemic appears to be very challenging and hard to fight.