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“Slow death”… The deadly fentanyl drug kills Mexico and the United States


Fentanyl, originally a painkiller available for medical use in the United States, is a new bone of contention between Washington and Mexico.

Having survived an overdose in the past, Elena prepares a dose of heroin at Sala, a safe drug use hall in Mexicali, northern Mexico, that aims to protect addicts from the ravages of a fentanyl overdose.

Since escaping a black fate that brought her close, Helena fears that there is this synthetic opiate that is killing so many in the United States, on the other side of the border.

At Sala, she can test drugs she buys on the street to see what you use.

She was reassured that the test result for fentanyl was positive, as expected.

“All tests are positive,” says Saeed Salim, coordinator of the NGO Werter, which set up Sala in 2018 to protect drug users.

And Helena tells, with a face that clearly shows the effects of addiction, how she narrowly escaped from an overdose, shortly after she was injected with her usual dose of heroin, a drug she had been taking for 20 years.

“They gave me an ampoule,” she says, referring to a vial of naloxone, an antidote that can temporarily block the effects of opioid drugs.

By frequenting a sala, a pioneering room in Latin America for low-risk drug consumption, Helena, who earns a living through housework, has halved her daily dose.

This room opens its doors to the homeless or sex workers, and welcomes them warmly. The NGO gives them kits to prevent transmission of hepatitis or HIV.


“I feel like I’m still human,” says Ricardo, 59.

Like Helena, this peddler who’s been on heroin for 26 years is a fentanyl survivor.

“When we replaced heroin” with “a mixture of fentanyl, I had an overdose, from which I survived, thanks to God,” he says.

He describes fentanyl as “numbing you” and “virtually leaving you asleep”.

In Mexicali, on the border with the United States, police record between three and six deaths of supposed drug addicts every day, according to local official Carlos Romero.

“Often it’s because of an overdose,” Romero says, noting that “the prevalence of fentanyl has increased a lot in the city.”

Overdoses account for up to 25% of emergencies, says Julio Buenrostro, Red Cross coordinator.

He asserts that naloxone “saves lives”. “Without naloxone, the patient’s recovery from the crisis is slow,” explains Gloria Puente, a technician in the Red Cross emergency department.

In the absence of regular access to this drug, medical staff, firefighters and police knock on the door of the “Werter” organization, which imports naloxone from the United States, where it is sold without a prescription.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador has criticized the over-the-counter sale of naloxone in the United States, saying, “Instead of dealing with matters in depth, we are content with using painkillers.”

Fentanyl, which is originally a painkiller available for medical use in the United States, is the subject of a new row between Washington and Mexico.

Danger on both sides of the border

Washington claims that Mexican cartels control the production and trafficking of this substance. For his part, the Mexican president points out that the chemical components of fentanyl are imported from China.

Last week, Mexico announced an agreement with China and South Korea to combat fentanyl trafficking.

A total of 67% of the 107,375 overdose deaths in the United States in 2021 were related to the use of “synthetic opioids,” according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

Fentanyl is the number one killer of people under the age of 50, more than any other cause, “including heart disease, cancer, homicide, suicide, and other types of accidents,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website. This substance is “about 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin as an analgesic.”

“Fentanyl is the single most lethal drug threat our nation has ever faced,” said Ann Milgram, director of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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