Yes, there is a fentanyl crisis, but it is one we made ourselves in our all-fired enthusiasm to control everything.
The Drug War had its origins almost exactly 100 years ago when legislation was created both in the U.S. and Canada to “control” cannabis and opium, and were largely racially-inspired attacks on unpopular minorities who used these substances (eg. Chinese labourers working on the CP railway, and disposable artsy types).
Since the Second World War, the drug problem has grown like Topsy, each ill-advised exacerbation of the laws being reliably accompanied by an increase in prison populations, in the U.S. from 500,000 in 1980 to about 2.2 million in 2013.
Really, alarm bells didn’t start ringing until solid middle class boys came back from Vietnam with serious addiction problems and drug control experts started appearing on TV.
Here’s the thing: when you harshly control low-potency drugs like opium and weed, then the traffickers have to go to ever-higher potency substances which are easier to smuggle. So instead of smoking opium or pot or chewing coca leaf, the user has to resort to what is readily available, ie. heroin and crack. And now fentanyl, with our inspired pols running around like headless chickens, wishing we were back in the days when the worst evil we had to deal with was heroin.
Clever chemists have now made fentanyl so potent that policemen have to wear full HAZMAT suits when they go on raids, and naloxone (Narcan) is about as effective as sugar water.
After decades of Drug War we are on the brink of legalizing recreational cannabis and the InSite program in Vancouver is being expanded. Whoda thunk that back in 1980?