Even in the wake of a sad year and increased awareness of these epidemic-status drugs, education is not enough to turn the tide.
When it comes to illegal drugs, meth and fentanyl are arguably the most widely known by the average person, the most potent in form, and the most popular on the streets. These two drugs are certainly not the only ones that exist. But in many ways, they are quickly displacing other street drugs, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Here’s how meth and fentanyl dominate the illegal drug market.
Two Halves of the Whole
For a simple understanding of drugs, we can consider two categories: uppers and downers. Uppers, otherwise known as stimulant drugs, increase central nervous system (CNS) activity and speed up the body’s systems. Downers, also known as depressant drugs, have the opposite effect, slowing down central nervous system activity and the body’s systems. There is a wide range of drugs in both categories, but all drugs, both legal and illegal, generally fall into one of these two categories, including meth and fentanyl.
Meth (methamphetamine) is an upper that can be taken in various forms, including smoking, snorting, injection, and even pill form. This alone gives the drug a high advantage of availability in the illegal market and a range of potency, depending on which form the drug is taken. Fentanyl is a downer and part of the opioid drug class. Compared to other opioids like morphine, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent. Technically, meth and fentanyl have a very specific medically legal use for severe treatment cases like cancer pain management. But these drugs are not known today because of their legal use in medical situations; they are known for widespread illegal use.
At Home and Abroad
Since meth and fentanyl are synthetic drugs, meaning they are not derived from plants, illegal use of these drugs can take place only after they have been manufactured in labs. According to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence report in 2020, the U.S. fentanyl crisis officially began in 2014 but spread widely starting in 2019 because of drug trafficking expansions. Most fentanyl entering the United States comes from Mexico, China, and India, with similar drug trafficking efforts taking place for meth as well. The competitive advantage for meth, however, is that it is much easier to manufacture domestically since it is largely derived from over-the-counter (OTC) medications and household products.
People who use expensive stimulant drugs like cocaine will often switch to meth because it is highly potent and addictive while also being much cheaper and easier to get a hold of. While newer forms of meth continue to be manufactured, domestic forms are widely available.
Fentanyl is similar to meth in the sense that a little bit goes a long way. While heroin and oxycodone once ruled the opioid street market, fentanyl is now surpassing them as a much more potent option. But this has come with a great price. Unlike the wide range of meth users who intentionally use meth, most fentanyl users are completely unaware they are using the drug. In fact, 2022 was the dawn of the first-ever Fentanyl Awareness Day, launched on May 10, 2022. According to the DEA, fentanyl’s high potency prompted drug traffickers to begin mixing it not only in other opioid street drugs but other drugs as well.
This means that someone with no intention of using fentanyl could still come into contact with lethal amounts of this drug. To make matters worse, when fentanyl interacts with other drugs, such as benzos, it increases the risk of death. Sadly, one of the reasons that Fentanyl Awareness Day came into existence is because fentanyl became the leading cause of death for adults 18-45. This does not sideline the dangers of meth, however. At the close of 2022, overdose deaths related to methamphetamine were twice the amount of fentanyl in Oklahoma, and overdose rates are especially high throughout rural America.
Turning the Tide
Even in the wake of a sad year and increased awareness of these epidemic-status drugs, education is not enough to turn the tide. Just a few months ago, a trailer attempting to enter the United States from Mexico was seized. This trailer was full of over 17,000 pounds of meth and almost 400 pounds of fentanyl, a record-breaking drug seizure in America. Although we know this drug shipment was stopped, who knows how many more have made their way into the country and into the street supply?
These drugs represent a massive market, and their addictive nature makes their dangers all the more serious. Traffickers will not stop until the demand for these drugs goes away. But meth and fentanyl users will likely not stop without the professional help required for such dangerous and addictive drugs. If you or someone you know is addicted to these dominating street drugs, it’s time to turn the tide and seek out help from medical professionals who are determined to set you on the road to recovery.
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