Apache, China Girl, Dance Fever, Great Bear. He-man. Jackpot. Murder 8. Some of the street names for fentanyl, a drug that fires the imagination like no other. A man-made opioid, it creates a euphoria way beyond rival drugs, 50 times more potent than heroin with which it is sometimes laced. It also kills like no other if not handled with extreme care. A speck barely visible to the eye can be quickly lethal. Overdose led to a record 93, 331 deaths last year. a thirty per cent jump from the year before.
Fentanyl is the gift of Wuhan, China, which also gave us Covid-19. It seems only fair that a global disease should be followed by a drug that relieves its pain were it not equally dangerous. While skilled in invention, Wuhan is careless in regulation, thus providing a home for criminals who are as enthusiastic about fentanyl as its consumers. It’s a big money maker since it’s inexpensive to produce.
Chinese and Mexicans have combined to market the drug. Chinese manufacturers may send precursors of fentanyl to Mexico, where it is processed in Mexican labs, some run by Chinese. The cartels then take it across the porous border for distribution in the U.S. At times, Chinese dealers directly contact customers through the “dark web“ of the internet, then mail off a few bits of fentanyl in an envelope that may be worth several thousand dollars on delivery. Afterwards, Chinese banks and businesses are adept at laundering the proceeds back to China or Mexico
It’s hard for law enforcement to keep up with this streamlined system. Not that the Chinese are all that interested. They say they want to accommodate the U.S. in cracking down on the lawbreakers, but their laws are lax and casually enforced. Many drug manufacturers, university trained, operate freely in the open. There are also suggestions that the Chinese government doesn’t mind giving a poke in the eye to another power that pokes it.
Ben Westhoff, author of “Fantanyl Inc.,” says he doesn’t know whether the ingenious chemists who create the death-dealing drugs should be locked up or awarded a Nobel Prize. It’s a case of good intentions gone spectacularly awry. Paul Janssen, a Belgian chemist, brought out eighty useful medical drugs, including fentanyl which is routinely given to patients for pain relief, a legitimate purpose. Little did he know that his dazzling drug would lead to another kind of enormous worldwide pain.
Weathoff writes that just as astronauts take voyages into outer space so do psychonauts delve into their own psyches in search of the macular high or cure. It’s an understandable human drive, but one that needs the most positive restraints.