Demand for the potent heroin-fentanyl mixture is just one factor complicating officials’ efforts to contain a street drug that is raising alarms in the upper Midwest and the Northeast, says the Christian Science Monitor. The drug combo has been responsible for between 150 and 300 deaths. Last week, Chicago police and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested 29 members of a southside street gang suspected of trafficking in the specialty heroin.
Impeding efforts to crack down on the drug is the fact that it remains something of a mystery. Officials acknowledge they have much to learn, including where the fentanyl is made. They also are concerned because, as a synthetic drug made in sophisticated labs, fentanyl may point to a new territorial opening in the war on illegal drugs. “Even if this episode subsides, what it represents is a very serious and emerging problem. The rise of synthetic drugs manufactured in labs in the developed world is a very different phenomenon than Afghan warlords or coca crops being smuggled in,” says David Murray of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The typical Chicago addict is spending $25 to $30 a day on heroin, says sociologist Greg Scott of DePaul University. Of the five drug crews he has spent time with, four are dealing at least 50-percent fentanyl-laced drugs.