In recent years, the term synthetic heroin has added to the confusion about the drug. While the potency of heroin can be the cause of an overdose, so can the potency of drugs often substituted for heroin, such as fentanyl.
Fentanyl is one of the strongest opiate drugs on the market and is about 40 to 50 times more potent than heroin. It is used pharmaceutically as part of anesthesia to help prevent pain after surgery or other medical procedure and is highly addictive.
It is commonly called “synthetic heroin” because it is made in a lab without natural products.
In addition, the two drugs can be mixed, making the potency very difficult to determine.
“Fentanyl usage and overdoses climb every year,” said Jack Riley, Deputy Administrator for the DEA. “We used to see heroin laced with fentanyl, now we’re starting to see fentanyl laced with heroin.”
Without understanding what’s in a drug, much less the potency, users are taking a big risk.
“They don’t know if what they’re using is 2 percent heroin or 60 percent, “said Richard Fiano, Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. “That’s what’s killing them.”
As heroin usage increases, the demand of fentanyl is also increasing. Fentanyl which is grown in a lab doesn’t have a growing season like poppies, which are crucial for the making of heroin, so it can be produced year round in any location.