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Fentanyl deaths rising and Texas responds harshly to dealers

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain medication that is supposed to be heavily restricted in use -- but it's becoming widely available on the streets of Texas. The drug, which is normally used by people with severe injuries or terminal illnesses, like cancer, has already cut a swath through the Northern and Midwestern states in the union.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says that Texas is just the latest in a string of states that have fallen victim to the rising popularity of fentanyl among addicts seeking a stronger high. Because fentanyl is far more powerful a drug than most addicts can handle -- being 60 times more potent than heroin and even stronger than that when compared to morphine -- overdoses happen very easily. Some addicts don't even realize the batch of heroin or morphine they have is laced with the drug. Others do, but don't realize that their normal dose can kill them.

Fentanyl affects the user's respiratory system, depressing it until it can actually stop. The user simply suffocates because his or her lungs stop working.

Right now, the state hasn't begun officially tracking the toll that fentanyl is taking, but poison control centers are noticing the uptick in calls they're taking regarding the drug. Officially, all overdose deaths are supposed to be reported -- but there's no penalty for noncompliance with the law.

Because health departments and hospitals are also lax in recording the deaths related to fentanyl, the picture is probably far bleaker than many realize. Authorities associated with groups that promote drug abuse awareness and other drug initiatives say that fentanyl is killing addicts and occasional users in this country at an unprecedented rate.

Drug dealers, however, need to take warning: Texas, like many other states, is responding in an aggressive manner to dealers who traffic in fentanyl. For example, a 27-year-old dealer in Austin was handed a 14-year sentence, federal time, after two customers died. His supplier is facing a life sentence for the same event.

Because of the hard-line approach being taken by law enforcement, anyone charged with a fentanyl-related crime should quickly consider engaging help with their criminal defense. As the states continue to respond to the drug crisis, it's likely that there will be little sympathy in court for dealers and suppliers.

Source: Hays Free Press, "Dripping Springs woman arrested in major narcotics bust," Moses Leos, Feb. 02, 2018

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