A Guide Into the Dark World of Opioids
Narcotics Use in the U.S.
It is said that about 70% of Americans use drugs of some kind. That is a shocking statistic to me personally because it constitutes a heavy majority. Whether in schools, on the streets or among people you know and even in the workplace, it is not difficult to find people who are using drugs in some form or fashion. People who use or abuse drugs may not always look that the stereotypical user you see in the movies.
It may be useful to take an inside look at where these drugs are coming from and why. Especially as newer drugs such as Fentanyl are recently receiving more attention in the media.
I was watching a crime show on Netflix called 'Bad Blood'. One of the characters on the show, a female drug dealer, was devastated after her teenaged nephew overdosed on fentanyl laced cocaine. Fentanyl is a drug I was not familiar with and I quickly researched it.
Apparently, fentanyl is a painkiller type of opioid that is stronger than morphine, about 80 times stronger. Wow. And I know morphine, a commonly used painkiller, is pretty strong, so I can only image how potent eighty times that level of strength is. I have rarely taken painkillers and only then, they were prescribed. Therefore, I can not imagine how potent the effect of a painkiller would be on someone NOT in any pain. Apparently, this is why many people take fentanyl, for the extreme 'high' or euphoria they feel, however short lived.
The dangers of fentanyl are very real and tragic. The fact that a substance that powerful is out on the black market is a chilling thought. Apparently it can produce respiratory problems and death (if abused). It is also mixed with heroin by producers. I was quite shocked to hear it is mixed with other opioids, that in my view, are already so potent! That producers and users are seeking even more powerful substances to alter their internal chemistry is very concerning.
Heroine is also a derivative of morphine and affects similar brain transmitters as fentanyl, such as the ones that control respiration and heart rate. Consequently, it seems like it would not be very difficult to overdose on a heroine-fentanyl combination, because they are both already so potent and when combined, potentially more lethal to the body.
Where Are The Drugs Coming From?
Much of the opioid drugs such as heroine, cocaine and now fentanyl, are being produced in Mexico. They are then packaged and driven across the border into lower California where they are eventually distributed all over the United States. According to interviews I watched on television with drug producers and sellers (most of whom remained anonymous) the demand for opioids and especially for fentanyl is great, which produces the opportunity for these producers and distributors to make a lot of money, hence the popularity of La Chiva Blanca, or fentanyl laced heroine.
One distributer said (in a television documentary) that he makes upwards of $10,000 just from bringing drugs across Mexico. Others may make three times that amount depending on the geographic location of the drop. A seller from Mexico being anonymously interviewed for a documentary said one small package of heroine cost $50,000. Unbelievable!
In other past research I have done, I relearned that drugs also come from South American growers. The show, 'Narcos' was popularized by depicting the rise to power of Colombia's drug lord, Pablo Escobar. I recommend watching the show. It gives a vivid, realistic look at the underbelly of drug production and the politics and violence behind it.
Most opioids such as heroine or cocaine come from plants or their leaves. The Aztecs of the ancient Mexican Valley, for example, used to chew on the leaves of coco plants for more energy through out the day. But cocaine leaves are far from the processed and industrialized forms that modern opioids take today.
The Price We Pay
People may start out taking drugs for fun, to fit in with their young friends or seem cool, or perhaps to numb themselves from the pains and problems in their daily lives. Others may use drugs to regulate their brain chemistry; they may be depressed or bipolar and not receiving professional treatment. But unfortunately some people become addicted. I have seen firsthand and through research, the effect of drugs on people.
I have known people who lost their lives through an accidental overdose. I have researched the lives of people who became addicted to hard drugs and lost their jobs, careers, college careers, homes and money, due to drug use and addiction.
I was quite surprised by how expensive a drug habit can be. Heavily addicted people spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars a day to fuel their habit. And these addicts are not relegated to the wealthy or celebrities, but every day people as well. This seems like an extraordinary, all encompassing price to pay! But it really shows you the power of addiction and how it can take over every aspect of someone and his or her life.
This is not to mention the effect that drugs have on the families and friends of drug users. Family members have to watch the descent of their loved ones into drugs, stage interventions, or take their loved ones to rehab. Sometimes youths are kicked out of their homes due to their drug use and have to fend for themselves on the streets. Not to mention the paramedics and doctors that have to work hard to bring overdose victims back to life and help those saved find the path to recovery.
Is There a Solution?
It makes one wonder if cutting off the drug supply would solve or at least assuage the drug problem in the U.S.? That is, IF cutting off the drug supply was even possible. Or conversely, if people stopped using opioids in such large numbers, would drug cartels and dealers lose their steam? It's hard to tell, but if people did not use drugs, then there may not be such a demand for it.
It seems through out history that the use of substances that more potently alter brain chemistry have often been in high demand. And when the sources of those desire substances are made illegal, then there is a lot of societal upheaval. As we saw in the Prohibition Era, for example. Then begins this metaphoric war between the people and the government, to control the production, sale and consumption of certain substances.
I sometimes wonder if people put more effort into their personal development, education, relationships and careers, then they would have less time for drugs and destroying their lives. But life is not always so black and white.
This is why I think education about drugs is so imperative. Educate people consistently from an early age (in schools) about drugs, including the most recent ones, and their effects on the body. Education youths on steps for prevention, such as alternatives to chemical mood regulation. Educate and provide youths with resources to deal with substance abuse and mental health problems. This drug education should be talked about from an early age and in high schools and colleges, where young people often start experimenting with drugs, whether in the bathrooms, in the parking lots with friends, or at parties. Drug education should be real and consistent. It may not prevent everyone from using, but it may make them think a little harder about before they do. Education may not solve the problem but it could be a step in the right direction.
I think it is important to educate ourselves on issues relevant to society and drugs and drug trafficking are definitely under the category of relevant.
Though not all drugs come from Colombia, I definitely recommend watching the show Narcos, a Colombia based show on drug production. You can purchase all three seasons from Amazon.
Narcos is based on factual events and details the rise of Pablo Escobar's monopoly of the cocaine production in Colombia during the 1970s and 1980s. It also depicts the U.S.'s involvement in stopping this narcotraficante, or drug trafficker. I have watched all three seasons and was amazed by the sheer violence and dictatorial decision making of men like Pablo Escobar.
The production, distribution, violence and lives effected by drug trafficking is not much different today than what is shown on Narcos. Though perhaps more efficient, deadly and widespread.
© 2019 Marma