In our last entry, An American Death Part I: What is Fentanyl?, we took the initial step towards fighting the opioid epidemic by learning about what Fentanyl is, and the multitude of ways in which the heinous substance is systematically breaking down our culture. We now know that our country is being robbed of an unprecedented number of young lives along the way. People that hold the potential to do great things are falling prey to addiction long before their opportunities come. This knowledge naturally brings about a number of questions. Now that we know exactly what we’re fighting, the next step to loosening the drug’s grip on our society is learning where the drug comes from and how it makes its way into American communities. Once we gain a better understanding of exactly where Fentanyl is coming from, we can begin to fight back and halt the persistent death by fentanyl we face.

Although there are a number of sources for Fentanyl-laced heroin throughout the world, one trade route, in particular, has been said to have the highest incidence of traffic by far. This highway of criminal traffic begins in China, where  the exportation of powerful drugs can be as simple as shipping computers or phones. Due to a booming pharmaceutical industry, relatively relaxed laws concerning exportation, and a storied history of government corruption, narcotics producers have very few hurdles to jump in selling their product internationally. In fact, it was still legal to ship Fentanyl overseas until 2015, which pleased the governments of struggling nations worldwide. However, according to the DEA the stream of illegal Fentanyl entering either the United States hasn’t let up in volume, but instead has continued to grow despite law enforcement’s best efforts.

What is our Government doing?

As governments around the world continue to crack down, those tasked with moving the drugs have gotten more creative than ever before to ensure successful shipments. As a result, it can be difficult for law enforcement agencies to locate, track, and seize shipments before they hit our streets. Recently, a new practice has been adopted which has produced much higher profits for those manufacturing the drug, and exponentially, more heartache for those affected by its use. A number of arrests have been made in the past few years which involve the seizing of tools used to make and sell Fentanyl, including pill press machines and various chemicals.

After these products are prepared and packaged in China, they are generally shipped to various buyers throughout Mexico, under control of various Cartels. Cartel members then distribute their product to US based customers, through the use of their various, well-traveled smuggling routes. This appears to be yet another common case of drug smuggling organizations capitalizing on the addictive nature of American culture. With a seemingly endless line of customers at the door, someone is going to sell them what they want, and the Mexican cartels have been happy to fill the role of the salesman for decades.

How does Fentanyl reach the US?

After this, the drugs are carried into the country in a fashion similar to any other substance. The importation of Fentanyl typically begins with a team of couriers, or “mules” who smuggle the drugs in directly through our borders with the use of semi trucks, boats, planes, or even through the vehicle of one’s own body. These “mules” are either paid or blackmailed by the cartels into ensuring the safe delivery of their packages to various American contacts. At this point, the drugs or other materials are distributed throughout the country via large metropolitan areas and carelessly sold to the public, generally marketed as a number of other substances in the hopes of increasing profits.

One death by fentanyl is a tragedy. One thousand deaths by fentanyl becomes a statistic.