Much of the fentanyl that winds up in New England is manufactured in Mexico using precursor materials obtained from China and smuggled into the U.S., says the Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug cartels “started telling people they had a new, cleaner version of heroin. China White, they were calling it,” says a federal drug agent.
As President Trump prepares to declare the opioid epidemic a national crisis, the law enforcement community is racing to contain the spread of fentanyl, which has largely replaced heroin on the streets in opioid-ravaged New England and is increasingly the cause of fatal overdoses nationwide, the Washington Post reports. The drug crisis is both a law enforcement issue and a public health emergency, a decentralized disaster that authorities know they cannot solve with handcuffs and prison bars alone. Because the drug abusers often are themselves the dealers, the localized drug networks turn police work into a game of whack-a-mole.
Much of the fentanyl that winds up in New England is manufactured in Mexico using precursor materials obtained from China and smuggled into the U.S., the Drug Enforcement Administration says. New England residents have always been heavy users of prescription opioid painkillers, says Jon DeLena of the DEA office in New Hampshire. The drug cartels realized that this was a ripe market for heroin. “It was garbage heroin: It was 17, 18 percent purity,” he said, noting that two years ago drug dealers began mixing fentanyl into the heroin supply to boost its purity and potency. “They started telling people they had a new, cleaner version of heroin. China White, they were calling it.” Illicit fentanyl is boosting profit margins on the streets. The synthetic opioid is attractive to dealers because, unlike heroin derived from the poppy plant, it’s not subject to the vagaries of agriculture. Some street-level dealers didn’t know they were selling drugs laced with fentanyl, which has contributed to overdose deaths. Others do know fentanyl is in the mix, and their addicted customers want the most powerful product even if it’s potentially deadly. To some addicts, a near-death experience is not an error. It’s the dream.