Prince. Tom Petty. Lil Peep. Paul Gray of Slipknot. Three Doors Down guitarist Matt Roberts. Former Wilco guitarist Jay Bennet. Quite possibly Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries. The thing they all have in common is fentanyl, the opioid 30 times stronger than heroin and available in ultra-lethal forms on the black market.
Rolling Stone takes a look at the fentanyl crisis in the music industry.
Beyond the music industry, fentanyl has emerged as the most dangerous new drug in a generation. Of the nearly 65,000 fatal opioid overdoses in the U.S. in 2016 (the most recent survey), one-third were fentanyl-related, double the amount from the year before. The drug has surpassed heroin as the leading cause of overdose deaths, and new data shows that fentanyl overdose deaths jumped 30 percent between July 2016 and September 2017.
Fentanyl was invented in 1959 to help cancer patients cope with intense post-surgical pain. These days, it’s prescribed as a lollipop or a patch, which slowly releases the dosage through the skin, typically used for a few days after a major surgery. Though illegal in pill form, black-market fentanyl pills have become common in the past decade. This happened after doctors cut back on prescribing OxyContin in 2007, when the government sued its manufacturer for misleading the public about the drug’s addictive risks. Opioid users had to look elsewhere, and turned to heroin, which dealers started mixing with fentanyl for a faster-acting, more euphoric and addictive high. A fatal fentanyl overdose can happen in barely one minute. “The dose you require is minuscule, like a grain of salt,” says Volkow. “A tiny difference in your content can mean someone dying. You need a very sophisticated lab in order to measure a concentration that would be safe.”
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