Most street opiates (including heroin) are now laced or replaced with fentanyl – the drug that killed the singer Prince – and its analogues, far more powerful than heroin and so cheap that drug-dealing profits are skyrocketing at about the same rate as overdose deaths. The UK’s National Crime Agency said that traces of fentanyl have been found in 46 people who died this year. Users don’t know what they’re getting and they take too much. Fentanyl is recognised as a primary driver of the overdose epidemic.
Yep, fentanyl has a very much smaller “dose gap” (used because I don’t know the real phrase), that space between getting high and being dead. Variable amounts in illegal supplies therefore often kill.
Entirely true, quite right, fentanyl is killing people.
But the peculiar appeal of opioids tells us more about ourselves as a society, as a culture, than the tumultuous ups and downs of addiction statistics. Today’s young people come of age and carve out their adult lives in an environment of astronomical uncertainty. Corporations that used to pride themselves on fairness to their employees now strive only for profit. The upper echelons of management are as risk-infected as the lowest clerks. Massive layoffs rationalised by the eddies of globalisation make long-term contracts prehistoric relics. I ask the guys who come to the house to deliver packages how they like their jobs. They can’t say. They get up to three six-month contracts in a row and then get laid off so the company won’t have to pay them benefits.
People pour out of universities with all manner of degrees, yet with skills that are rapidly becoming irrelevant. But people without degrees are even worse off. They find themselves virtually unemployable, because there are so many others in the same pool, and employers will hire whoever comes cheapest. The absurdly low minimum wage figures in the US clearly exacerbate the situation. As hope for steady employment fizzles, so does the opportunity to connect with family, friends and society more broadly, and there is way too much time to kill. Opioids can help reduce the despair.
But you’ve just told us it’s the dosage problem with fentanyl which is causing it all!