Fentanyl: the new “cash cow” that is killing the heroin business

Enrique, wearing braces on his teeth and a black cap, talks quietly and carefully as he describes how he ‘cooks’ fentanyl.

The materials are bought from China and Germany over the internet, delivered to his home town in northern Mexico and prepared into a block of powder to send north, feeding America’s insatiable demand for synthetic opioids.

For the last 50 years cocaine and heroin have been the principle exports driving the growth of Cartels and their reign of terror in Mexico and across the border into the US.

But now, fueled by the opioid crisis that has swept across America, the gangs here in Mexico have a new – and much simpler – way of making money.

Clients in the US are asking for fentanyl right now. There is a lot of opium paste in the market because not that many people are buying it anymore. They’re buying fentanyl instead,” Enrique says.

In an attempt to justify calling a national emergency to build his wall across the Mexican border President Trump has himself mentioned the fentanyl “invasion”.

But his efforts to erect a barrier to stop the flow may be woefully misplaced.

Mr Trump’s argument ignores the fact that most illegal substances enter the United States through legal ports of entry – something the his own Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have pointed out to him to no avail.

Yet recent drug market trends in the state of Sinaloa and throughout Mexico suggest that neither a reinforced border wall or the high-profile take down of Guzmán (who was found guilty in a New York court of, amongst other crimes, running the criminal organization based here) will do much to stem the production and flow of drugs north.

Fentanyl  (a legal version of which is produced by pharmaceutical companies) as well as similar synthetic opioids killed some 28,000 Americans in 2017, according to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Addicts in the United States who initially switched from prescription painkillers to Mexican heroin are now eschewing it in favour of something stronger: fentanyl.

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