Fentanyl Deaths Rise in Minnesota, Why the Problem is so Difficult to Stop

December 20, 2016 08:39 AM

Drug experts say fentanyl is a growing problem, both in Minnesota and nationally. It's the drug that killed Prince and also an incredibly difficult problem to solve, both because of fentanyl's potency and because of the ongoing debate about where America's fentanyl actually comes from.

"Fentanyl is an absolute game changer in the drug abuse world," local drug expert Carol Falkowski said Monday. That's partially because it often comes in disguise -- in heroin, in cocaine, even in knock-off pills.

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"We've never had a substance contaminating both the illegal drug supply as well as these counterfeit pills," Falkowski explained.

And fentanyl is potent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 times more so than heroin and 100 times more potent than cocaine.

So the question becomes: how do we stop it? Falkowski said that's tough to determine because we aren't entirely sure where the problem is starting.

"At the heart of any drug epidemic is both supply and demand," she explained, "and step number one is figuring out the source of the supply because what you do about the supply varies depending on what the original source is."

U.S. officials have said the drug is predominantly being manufactured in China. However, late last week in a fax sent to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and to the Associated Press, China refuted that, saying those statements "lack the support of sufficient numbers of actual, confirmed cases."

"If it is the case that China is the source of fentanyl," Falkowski added, "our government needs to reach out to China and say, 'what can we do collectively to stop the influx, it's wreaking havoc, it's producing death in our country?'"

Without a known source, however, an already deadly problem becomes even deadlier.

In Minnesota, the state Department of Health said 36 Minnesotans died because of fentanyl in 2015, up from 29 deaths in 2014 and 19 in 2013.


Josh Rosenthal

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