Rise In Fentanyl Availability, Use And Related Deaths In The Morongo Basin

There are unmistakable signs of a serious uptick in the prevalence of fentanyl among the illicit street drugs available in the Morongo Basin since late spring, including multiple overdoses among its users, two of which resulted in deaths in the last month.
A synthetic opioid first derived in Belgium in 1960 and put to use to treat cancer pain, it became available legally by prescription in the United States beginning in 1968. Fentanyl has become widely popular among a certain segment of the population as both a painkiller and recreational drug.
Much more powerful than morphine, heroin or oxycodone, fentanyl is also far more deadly. In minute quantities it packs four, five and six times as much pain attenuating punch as do other opioids measured by weight, such that users can and often do perish upon imbibing a dose in a comparable amount to that typically used by an individual inhaling heroin, or injecting it intravenously or taking it orally.
Fentanyl played a primary role in the overdose death of the singer Prince and was a major contributory factor in the combined-substance overdose death of singer Michael Jackson.
More than a decade ago, Chinese companies began counterfeit manufacturing of the substance, which was distributed illicitly internationally. Within the last six years, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, pirate laboratories in Mexico began manufacturing it, whereafter it was marketed as “Mexican oxy,” i.e. what was represented as oxycontin. Between 2015 and 2018, there was a dramatic 400 percent spike in fentanyl-related deaths in Arizona, where the drug was being imported.
That corresponded with a rash of fentanyl deaths in Canada beginning in the 2014-2015 timeframe, followed by fentanyl deaths in the United States in 2018 surpassing those related to much-more-widely-used heroin. Fentanyl-related mortality generally entails asphyxiation or respiratory failure brought on by the drug’s suppression of the brain’s breathing control signalization mechanisms.
In recent months, the Morongo Basin has been flooded with counterfeit prescription pills laced with fentanyl manufactured in Mexico.
Available evidence is that the drug is available from dealers frequenting Brehm Youth Park, Essig Park and North Park in Yucca Valley, in the downtown area of Joshua Tree and at several off-base bars and recreational spots in Twentynine Palms.
Both of the known fentanyl overdose deaths in the Morongo Valley this month involved teenaged girls.

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