Deadly Market Forces in Narcotics

Lately, I’ve been shocked and dismayed by the frequent headlines about the number of overdoses and deaths due to narcotics throughout our country.  A timely article (RG Frank, HA Pollack. NEJM 2017; 376: 605-7) addresses one aspect of this threat to public health that I was not aware of previously.

  • Fentanyl, which is a powerful synthetic opioid, is much cheaper to produce than heroin.  In addition, fentanyl can result in death much more quickly as well.
  • Presumably due to its lower cost, suppliers ‘cut’ heroin with the drug.  As a consequence, fentanyl is increasingly responsible for opioid deaths. The authors estimate that from 2012 to 2014, the number of deaths due to fentanyl doubled to 5544 and that “41% of the roughly 7100 heroin-related deaths during this period involved fentanyl.”
  • Fentanyl has been found in multiple counterfeit illicit drugs.  For example, in a recent analysis from Canada, “89% of seized counterfeit OxyContin tablets” had fentanyl present.
  • Naloxone can reverse fentanyl overdoses but needs to be given more quickly and sometimes multiple doses are needed.

My take: The presence of fentanyl in illicit drugs means that even experimenting once could be fatal.


Related blog posts:


1 thought on “Deadly Market Forces in Narcotics

  1. Pingback: Opioid Use and Liver Transplantation Outcomes | gutsandgrowth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.