It has been a while since Iʻve written anything here and in the meantime Iʻve been elected to serve on our County Council – the local legislative and oversight body for our island of Hawaiʻi.
Yesterday the Council received a presentation by the narcotics unit of our police force on the presence of fentanyl in our communities. It was a grim discussion of course. The lethal dose of fentanyl is so minute that the police fear for their lives simply investigating crime scenes involving drugs of any kind. They asked for better protective gear to wear in such situations – basically hazmat suits.
The police officer in charge of the narcotics unit described how most fentanyl is manufactured in China, then shipped to Mexico to smuggled over the border into the US, and then brought into Hawaiʻi. A lethal doze of fentanyl is 2 milligrams and the amount of fentanyl apprehended by the police in the last year was enough to kill every resident of the island. And that is just what was apprehended.
It is a sad and horrifying situation, but it is also a strange kind of supply chain to contemplate – this axis of China and Mexico in supplying a drug of such potency to illicit drug consumers in the US. (Not all of whom sign on for fentanyl, as it is increasingly used to lace every other “recreational” drug, even relatively innocuous drugs such as marijuana.)
Chemical analysis of seized fentanyl can be linked back to a particular province in China, we were told. This degree of specificity – this tracking back into the Chinese province – makes me think of the Opium War in of the mid 19th century in which England used military force to maintain its market for opium in China, bombing Chinaʻs port cities with warships, seizing Hong Kong, and even attacking the capital city of Beijing , including the desecration and occupation of its imperial palaces. The Chinese government of the time was weak and corrupt. Civil wars in which tens of millions of people perished attempting to overthrow, or defend, the imperial order were happening contemporarily. It was a bad situation, made worse by the English and French military forcing the Chinese to legalize the opium trade.
This is not to justify the manufacture and export of illegal fentanyl in China, but the echoes of history are hard to ignore. It is not impossible, given the deterioration of relations between China and the Us, that the over-production of fentanyl is tacitly condoned. That there is even a bit of fentanyl war being waged. It is a strange world we live in, truly.
8 Replies to “Fentanyl and the New World Order”
Congratulations on your new posting! (The role, not the text above).
I’d be interested to know, given the meeting you attended was about drugs, if there was anything about root causes, and not continually trying to seize the supply, but to reduce demand, a la Portugal.
Thank you! And thanks for commenting.
Not as such, however there is a doctor/politician on island who is running a vigorous campaign of education and harm reduction. It would seem to me that the well-documented dangers of fentanyl would reduce demand in and of itself. But I know that I am being naive in saying so.
I was thinking more about the more fundamental reasons of why people seem to fall in to addiction on a societal level. I’ve not read this book but have read several similar articles. Many drugs are dangerous and have deadly overdose potential, it would not surprise me that users of fentanyl would knowingly use it anyway. I’ll reach research more about this when I have time, after my morning bottle of wine.
I got a good chuckle out of your last line, “…after I’ve had my morning bottle of wine.” I agree that legal and illegal drugs are an interesting subject. Growing up with parents who were both addicts (father, alcohol…mother, narcotics) and watching two siblings struggle with addiction I’ve given the matter much thought. Certainly there is a place for consuming mind altering substances including coffee, wine and spirits, even tobacco. I support the legalization of marijuana. I tend to think that safe user spaces for even illegal drugs would be far less expensive than the way we currently rely on emergency services to deal with overdoses.
I can’t help but think that humans are over populating the planet and causing most of the environmental problems. So why are we so concerned about people who choose to escape into drugs even when it shortens their life? When we make some drugs illegal we actually create criminals and fund their illegal businesses. It’s time to move beyond the drug wars.
Good to see you back Michelle, more please 🙂
It is indeed a sad and horrifying thing you write about. Interesting that there isn’t (so far as I know) a comparable scourge of opioids in China at present.
Hi Chris. I missed your last two posts and now comments are closed so I am commenting here. Excellent writing! My favorite line was,
“….the problems of 8 billion current humans and the catastrophic consequences of accelerating climate chaos and habitat loss, spurred by the structural violence of intensifying inequality and injustice, don’t amount to a hill of beans, hypothetically, because there is better – so, so much better – to come.”
I agree with you about connection. One of the important lessons I learned about herbal medicine was how to connect with plants, because they will tell you how best to use them. The recommendation was made by an herbal practitioner to sit near a plant and just rest, let your awareness become one with the plant. Few people can sit long enough or become sensitive enough to ‘hear’ what a plant is telling them. But having experienced it myself, I can say it is possible as long as we want to connect.
A few months ago I sat near an elderly neighbor who had had a very bad stroke. Her ability to communicate verbally or even with physical cues was gone. I loved this woman. Our friendship was important to me. So I was left feeling bereft…until I sat still and connected. I could hear her in my mind telling me how frustrating it was for her. She was still in the shell of a mind corrupted by the stroke, and I could still connect with her. Some might say I imagined our conversation, but so what. I no longer feel deaf to our connection and I think she feels the same way. Someone can hear her. I imagine that our ancestors might feel the same. I imagine our future generations might also be calling out to us to think about what we are doing and how it might affect them. It truly is all about connection.
Hi Jody, I like your idea of sitting with a plant, or a person, and just listening rather than having the next thing you’ve got to get onto in mind. Connection does take time – ‘moving at the speed of trust’ someone called it.
Nice to hear from you Michelle. I think the biggest problem with fentanyl is that it can be deadly at such small doses. This makes the drug a danger for everyone who is exposed but not attempting to use it illegally. The reason that drug dealers are cutting it into other products they sell is because it is cheap, it is accessible, and it makes the ‘high’ better. It is also highly addictive, which brings their customers back.
I don’t think we can ever eliminate drug use in society. So the questions we might try to answer are how can we make it safer and how can we as society compete with criminal drug sellers? In the long run society will save money on drug enforcement, jails, and emergency services. We just have to give up our moralistic stance that using drugs to get high is wrong and therefore should be illegal.
The last ten years of my mother’s life her doctor prescribed both Oxycontin and fentanyl patches for her “pain”. She had been addicted to narcotics ever since she had back surgery when she was in her 30’s. Her doctor finally just prescribed the narcotics she craved and she was ‘medicated’ every day.
People are in a lot of mental and emotional pain because of all the problems they face in the world today. Perhaps they should be allowed to medicate to alleviate the pain.
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