The Detroit Free Press published the first in an extensive series on the fentanyl plague that has killed more than 300 people in the Detroit area. It begins with a profile of rogue chemist Ricardo Valdez of Mexico, who had spent 11 years in a U.S. prison for making fentanyl, which is like heroin times 50. Back in Mexico, authorities believe he cooked another batch, 22 pounds, enough to get 80 million people high if it didn’t kill them. It left 1,000 dead around the U.S.
Nowhere did fentanyl hit harder than Detroit. “If you want to blame me for it, I guess it’s convenient,” the chemist protests from prison in Mexico. Free Press reporters tracked Valdez, fentanyl and hundreds of drug users over the past year. From Detroit flophouses that rent rooms by the hour, to the suburban life of Lauren Jolly, whose death showed that affluence, family affection, and a good school can’t always shield children from killer drugs. From a Chicago street gang to a interview in a Mexican prison with fentanyl’s most notorious chemist, the Free Press tells their story.