More than 1,000 people have died from nonpharmaceutical fentanyl
According to the CDC more than 1,000 people have died over the past two years from a street-drug version of the painkiller fentanyl. Camden, N.J., was the first city to report deaths from nonpharmaceutical fentanyl; however, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia were soon to follow. According to a piece in the July 25 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a single gram of pure fentanyl can produce around 7,000 doses of street fentanyl, which are considered to be 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Adding to the complexity of the problem, instructions on how to prepare the street drug are readily available on the internet. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that discusses the issue:
A single gram of pure fentanyl can be cut into about 7,000 doses of street fentanyl and instructions or recipes for the process are available on the Internet, the CDC said.
Illicitly manufactured nonpharmaceutical fentanyl (NPF) is a synthetic opioid 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Testing of drug samples containing fentanyl can distinguish between pharmaceutical and illicitly manufactured NPF. However, testing of biologic samples (e.g., serum) cannot distinguish between pharmaceutical fentanyl and NPF.
A month after Camden reported the spike in deaths, the CDC implemented an ad hoc case-finding and surveillance system in six states — Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
That effort, which is now managed by the Drug Enforcement Administration, identified 1,013 nonpharmaceutical fentanyl deaths from April 4, 2005 through March 28, 2007.
“Law enforcement agencies (e.g., DEA and local and state police) responded by identifying and arresting sellers … seizing nonpharmaceutical fentanyl, and closing … production facilities, including one in Toluca, Mexico, in May 2006,” the CDC wrote.
Moreover, in April 2007, the DEA began regulating access to N-phenethyl-4-piperidone, a chemical used in the manufacture of street fentanyl.