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Fentanyl triggers mass overdoses in the United States | International

Fentanyl and methamphetamine pills seized at the Nogales, Arizona, border in 2019.
Fentanyl and methamphetamine pills seized at the Nogales, Arizona, border in 2019.Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star (AP)

On March 10, a call came in to 911 from an Airbnb in Wilton Manors, Florida. “We take cocaine and there are some people who are not responding,” said the voice that asked the emergency services for help. The Spring Break vacation of nine people, including five cadets from the West Point Military Academy, turned into a nightmare that Thursday. Seven had to be admitted to hospital after overdosing. The cocaine they consumed had traces of fentanyl, the powerful chemical opiate that is 50 times stronger than heroin and is used in cancer treatments.

The Florida episode is just one of several recently recorded. This Wednesday, the United States drug enforcement agency, the DEA (for its acronym in English), has alerted police forces across the country of an increase in the number of massive overdoses, the poisoning of three or more people at the same time. weather. “In the last two months alone, there have been seven across the country that have left 58 overdoses and 29 deaths,” DEA chief Anne Milgram said in a letter. “Last year left more deaths from fentanyl than the sum of deaths from firearms and car accidents,” she added.

According to Milgram, traffickers are mixing fentanyl, a highly addictive drug, with other substances in pill or powder form to further hook their customers. Agents have found that those who think they are using cocaine are actually taking the powerful opiate. This has also been found in imitation OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin pills, drugs widely consumed in the illegal drug market and that can only legally be purchased with prescriptions prescribed by doctors. “All of this is creating a terrible national trend where many of the overdose victims are dying because they are ingesting fentanyl without knowing it,” says the agency administrator.

Max Eckmann, a doctor who belongs to the Texas Medical Association, said Tuesday that two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill a person. “To put it into perspective, that fits on the tip of a pen,” said the doctor, who stressed that the drugs found on the streets of the United States today “are more powerful and deadly than ever before.”

At Wilton Manors no one died. In previous weeks, however, fentanyl left a trail of death across the country. On March 4, 21 people in Austin, Texas, suffered an overdose in a homeless shelter, one of the segments of the population that suffers the most from addiction. Three of them died after consuming crack and methamphetamine cut with the opiate, a hundred times more powerful than morphine. A day earlier, three people died in a hotel room in Cortez, Colorado. Counterfeit 30-milligram OxyContin pills, supplied as a pain treatment, were found at the scene. On February 20, five people had the same outcome after believing they were taking pure cocaine in an apartment in Commerce City, also in Colorado. Similar episodes have been recorded in Nebraska, Missouri and in Washington, the nation’s capital.

The DEA considers that the country suffers from an epidemic. The United States has recorded 105,000 overdose deaths between October 2020 and October 2021. This means an increase of about 30% compared to the previous period. Fentanyl is responsible for nearly 7 out of 10 of those deaths. Black and American Indian men are the groups most affected by the influx of drugs on the streets. African-Americans have 54 overdose deaths per 100,000 population. In 2015, it was only 17.3, according to figures from the Pew Center. Native indigenous people account for 52 deaths per 100,000 people, when they were only 25 five years ago. Whites are the third most affected group.

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The high number of overdose deaths also has a political component. Republican candidates are using the issue heading into November’s legislative elections to demand a tough hand on immigration and greater controls on the border with Mexico. JD Vance, a Trump-backed bestselling writer running for the Senate from Ohio, has aired a campaign ad claiming that President Joe Biden’s open borders “are killing Ohioans with illegal drugs that are flooding the country.” . “I almost lost my mother because of the poison that is coming through the border,” says the candidate. His state is one of the four with the highest rate of overdose deaths. Many experts assure that drug cartels receive fentanyl from China and then introduce it to the market.

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