The powerful synthetic opioid that recently took the life of rock legend Prince brings renewed focus on the dangers posed by narcotics created in laboratories. Prince died on April 21st from an overdose of fentanyl, a drug used for cancer patients when traditional opioids prove ineffective for pain relief. Despite its legitimate medical uses for cancer patients, fentanyl has made its appearance in the streets of America. It is now among the numerous synthetic drugs flooding the drug market in the United States. Police departments are trying to keep up with a picture that changes almost every day . The DEA has identified something like 400 new psychoactive substances over the last four or five years. Another synthetic opioid, U-47700, has been connected to at least 50 deaths nationwide, but is so new to the black market that the DEA has not yet moved to control it. Fentanyl is 40 times more potent that the traditional street heroin. Many long time users of Heroin are overdosing when injecting heroin laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl-laced heroin is worsening the nation’s overdose crisis and some drug dealers are using an illicit version of fentanyl, to increase the potency of heroin. There were at least 700 fentanyl-related deaths from late 2013 through 2014. All together in just one year, more than 29,000 people lost their lives to an overdose of heroin or prescription painkillers — including OxyContin, hydrocodone and fentanyl. That is an increase of 329 percent since the start of the century. Counterfeit pain and anxiety medications that actually contain fentanyl, which are disguised as common prescription drugs like hydrocodone, Percocet and Xanax are responsible for a growing number of overdose deaths and non-fatal overdoses around the country also. Furthermore, recent surges in hospitalizations and calls to poison control centers linked to consumption of synthetic cannabinoid products old under brand names like Spice and K2. The synthetic pot caused 16 to be hospitalized in Houston last week. Houston Police responded to a report at a local park known for drug use, and over a dozen were hauled away in an ambulances.
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