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The Fentanyl Epidemic is Driven by Supply, Not Demand

Author Sam Quinones, a longtime Mexico resident, initially believed that demand from the United States for drugs was creating supply. Now — after years of interviewing people with addiction, their family members, cops, traffickers and dealers, drug counselors, paramedics, ER doctors, and nurses, as well as writing two books on opioids, including fentanyl — it is clear that street fentanyl, indeed all opioids, is about supply creating demand, writes Quinones in the Washington Post. Quinones says opioids transform the brain chemistry, creating dependency and squelching basic instincts for survival. It is relentless supply that perpetuates this demand by making opioids readily available — and getting sober an agony. The most recent provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the 12 months ending in August 2022, estimated that there were 112,000 fatal overdoses nationwide, an increase of almost 3 percent. Supply creating demand is the story of the national opioid epidemic, Quinones says.


Fentanyl is a big contributor to the opioid epidemic, despite its benefits in medical situations. On the street, fentanyl’s short-lasting nature means addicts must use it repeatedly throughout the day to keep withdrawal at bay. Plentiful fentanyl, meanwhile, drives users’ tolerances to towering levels, with brutal withdrawals. This makes kicking fentanyl scary and is why many street addicts refuse treatment and housing even at the risk of death. Street fentanyl is manufactured in Mexico and the unrelenting supply the cartels create means fentanyl is now everywhere. It is mixed into counterfeit pills smuggled into the U.S. by the tens of millions and is often laced with many other drugs, such as meth, marijuana, and cocaine. To help, Quinones believes expanding drug treatment capacity should be a national priority. With users outmatched by drug supplies, he believes there is a need to get them off the street and to a place where they can’t leave when the dope tells them they must. It is also essential for the U.S. to find ways of engaging Mexico to, among other things, track and disrupt the importation of fentanyl’s chemical components, Quinones writes.,

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