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Reasons Why the Illicit Opioid Market’s Participants Are Incentivized to Use Fentanyl

Fentanyl is an opioid that is much stronger than most opioids. It’s actually more responsible for fatal overdoses here in the United States than any other single opioid.

Most heroin here in Northwest Tennessee contains at least some proportion of fentanyl.

Whenever I use “heroin” in this article, just know I’m referring to mixtures of fentanyl and heroin. Although, in some cases, American heroin users might not receive mixtures of fentanyl and heroin all the time, most of the time, fentanyl is present. Also, don’t forget that the market contains counterfeit pharmaceutical opioids that contain fentanyl.

Here are a few reasons why dealers — a less fancy way of saying “the illicit opioid market’s participants” — are incentivized to keep using fentanyl.

Fentanyl-Free “Heroin” Might Not Satisfy Users’ Dependencies

Fentanyl causes much more intense opioid withdrawal syndrome symptoms than other less-powerful opioids, generally speaking, that is. Most people who use “heroin” actually use fentanyl-heroin mixtures whether they know it or not.

Dealers may notice a drop in sales or complaints from customers if they seek out fentanyl-free street heroin.

Exceptionally Strong Batches Bring Extra Traffic

It is true that news of overdoses spreads like wildfire within drug-using communities. If Jimmy’s most recent batch is rumored to have caused a number of overdose deaths, many users in that community will flock to Jimmy in search of heroin.

Jimmy may be incentivized to sell “heroin” that contains greater proportions of fentanyl than usual to achieve such short-term notoriety among opioid users in his community.

Note that such instances are more common among open-air markets, such as in Philadelphia.

Fentanyl Is Easier to Smuggle

Since fentanyl is much more potent than heroin, dealers are incentivized to continue using heroin mixed with fentanyl, if not use batches of “heroin” that contain nothing but fentanyl, as opposed to just heroin.

Fentanyl — when comparing IV fentanyl to IV heroin — is anywhere from 10 to 25 times stronger than heroin.

Stick out your pinky. Now make a fist. The difference in volume between your pinky and fist is a rough analogy between how much fentanyl one would need to smuggle, as compared to heroin, to get however-many users high.

Even if participants in the illicit opioid market aren’t smuggling pure fentanyl, for every bit more fentanyl that they include in their heroin-fentanyl mixtures, the less bulk they have to carry.

Users Report Drawing More Utility From Heroin-Fentanyl Mixtures

In my roughly three years of using heroin intravenously, I preferred my batches to include at least a little bit of fentanyl. I’d get more bang for my buck that way. Plus, the rush was a little stronger.

Many anecdotal reports from fellow opioid users, tons of which can be found online, indicate that they, too, preferred their heroin to contain fentanyl.

Fentanyl Is Easier to Manufacture

Although I don’t have any history whatsoever in manufacturing fentanyl or any other drugs, I do understand that fentanyl is easier to manufacture than other opioids. This is due to its synthetic nature.

The main reason why illicitly-manufactured fentanyl is easier to make is that its manufacturers don’t have to cultivate opium poppies en masse. Rather, they can source already-made chemical precursors. This reduces the burden on manufacturers in a number of ways.

What You Can Take Away From This

Put simply, fentanyl is far more dangerous than other opioids. When using street heroin — or any other opioid, for that matter — you should use fentanyl test strips to determine if your drugs have fentanyl. Fentanyl test strips are cheap and can even be sourced for free from Next Distro, though only in limited quantities.

If you don’t have any means of testing drugs before you use them, always use around other people and take super-small test doses with every new batch you get before dosing as you normally would.

Also, of course, make sure to have naloxone around, as well as someone who knows how to use it.

By Daniel Garrett

I'm a self-employed writer, long-term drug user, and resident of rural Tennessee. Find me on Twitter at @DanielGarrettHR or email me at danpgarr@ut.utm.edu.

2 replies on “Reasons Why the Illicit Opioid Market’s Participants Are Incentivized to Use Fentanyl”

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