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How Does Fentanyl Get In Everything?

by Will Long

August 18, 2022
DEA-seized bags of fentanyl-laced drugs at the Bronx District Attorney's office.

Fentanyl Lacing

In July, a Kentucky woman claimed that among the change she received from a fast food restaurant was a dollar bill containing traces of fentanyl. She told a television station that within 10 minutes of picking up the dollar her body went numb, she had trouble breathing and eventually passed out. While authorities are skeptical that fentanyl was the cause of the reaction, they do admit the deadly drug continues to show up in illegally sold drugs and overdose reports.

Fentanyl is the deadliest widespread drug on the black market today. This synthetic opioid has unquestionably been the primary engine that’s driving the number of overdoses higher. In 2021, over 107,000 people died from a drug overdose. Opioids were among the most common substances contributing to those deaths. The question remains, how is fentanyl getting into so many drugs and possibly even dollar bills?

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a dangerous synthetic opioid that’s 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. The drug is created through a process that creates the synthetic opioid out of precursors found mostly in labs from China, where they operate in an environment that turns a blind eye to unregulated pharmaceutical production. Those who make the finished product that contains some tiny amount of fentanyl only need a tiny amount to achieve the desired effect. For those who buy illicit drugs off the street, it’s impossible to know if something contains fentanyl without testing it first. Fentanyl is in almost everything now.

Why is Fentanyl Used in Drugs?

One of the reasons fentanyl is so ubiquitous on the black market is because of how cheap and easy it is to make and lace drugs with. Smaller amounts of powdered opioid drugs are so much easier to ship between parties, making it much more desirable as an adulterant that achieves the desired effect of addiction and effects  If drug manufacturers can get a highly potent, incredibly small dose of fentanyl in their product to get people hooked faster and make more money, who’s to say they won’t take advantage of the high opportunity cost of non-laced drugs when the alternative is making more money off increasing non-medical drug use and higher demand for illicit laced opioids?

Manufacturers in either Asia or Central America will use precursors to make fentanyl, which is then put in the powder mix with other drugs, mostly counterfeit M30s or regular oxycodone pills. These are then pressed using pill presses usually shipped from China, which (in the US) are illegal to possess without a license. When the pills are manufactured and pressed into pill form by these clandestine chemists, they don’t have regulations in place to manage any kind of “quality control” in the illegal laboratories, so some pills will get high amounts of fentanyl and some won’t get any. Fentanyl itself is horrifically dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Many of these pills have unequal ratios of non-fentanyl opioid content to fentanyl lacing the drug. These are then bought by people on the street that have already become victims of the opioid crisis in the US through consuming worse substances due to an addiction, consuming the same drugs that are now part of a tainted supply, or becoming addicted from using prescribed opioids non-medically and now seek out something worse.

Learn More

To learn more about how Landmark Recovery helps those who suffer from an opioid addiction, give us a call today at 888-448-0302. Our dedicated admissions specialists can share what services we offer and how we can help you unlock your potential on the road to recovery. Our mission is to save a million lives in the next century, starting with those affected by the opioid crisis in the US.

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About the Author

Will Long

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Long has been a writer for Landmark Recovery since 2021. He specializes in research and writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective. Unearthing information from underexplored, far-flung corners of the Internet, Long’s passion is finding emerging trends in substance use and treatment that the public should know about.