America’s Fentanyl Crisis

Happy Tuesday! Congratulations to Taylor Swift on becoming the first musical artist to secure the top 10 spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 with her new album, Midnights. If there’s ever been a more impressive accomplishment in human history, we’re not aware of it.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • At least 105 people are dead and dozens are still missing after Tropical Storm Nalgae battered the Philippines over the weekend. Rescue workers are still searching for others, particularly in a southern village where as many as 100 people may have been buried or swept away by landslides and flash floods.
  • The European Union’s statistics agency reported Monday that annual inflation hit a record 10.7 percent in the Eurozone last month, up from 9.9 percent in September. A 42-percent year-over-year spike in energy prices was the largest contributor to the October figure, followed by a 13-percent increase in the cost of food, alcohol, and tobacco.
  • Data collected by the pro-abortion-access Society of Family Planning suggest that, relative to a baseline monthly estimate from April, the overall number of legal abortions performed in the United States declined by nearly 10,600 in the two months after Roe v. Wade was overturned. States where abortion remains legal did see a spike in abortions performed as some women traveled to undergo the procedure, but all in all, the number of abortions performed in recent months—excluding illegal abortions—is down 6 percent.
  • More than 24 hours after Brazil’s election authority declared leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva the victor in the country’s presidential runoff election, incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro has yet to acknowledge the results or concede defeat—despite a growing number of allies encouraging him to do so. Bolsonaro’s communications minister said Monday the president will address the country publicly today after preparing remarks, but it’s not clear if those remarks will include a concession.
  • As the demonstrations sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody enter their seventh week, Iranian protesters continue to defy regime officials who had formally declared the “end of the riots.” Iranian authorities said Monday that they plan to hold public trials for 1,000 people in Tehran for their alleged “subversive actions” amid the unrest. 

‘Rainbow’ or Not, Fentanyl’s a Killer

A Jefferson County, Colorado public health official holds a fentanyl test strip. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Despite decades of urban legends and rumors about razor blades in apples or weed in candy, sociology and criminal justice researcher Joel Best has yet to document a single instance of children being seriously injured or killed by goodies they collected while trick or treating. After an August warning from the Drug Enforcement Administration, brightly colored “rainbow fentanyl” disguised as candy became the new bogeyman—though researchers cast doubt on the idea that bad actors would try to hook young children on hard drugs via Halloween candy. 

But while opioid-laced trick-or-treat goodies don’t seem to have found their way into candy buckets, illicit fentanyl is a real and worsening public health disaster. Opioid deaths have been increasing in the United States for decades, but especially recently: Last year, drug overdoses killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S. for the first time. The mostly fentanyl category of “synthetic opioids other than methadone” accounted for 71,238 of those deaths. Fentanyl deaths have tripled among teens in recent years and are now the leading cause of preventable deaths for that age group in the U.S. To make matters worse, many users who overdose don’t even know they’re trying fentanyl.

Invented decades ago as a pain reliever, fentanyl is still used in the U.S. for severe surgical and cancer pain, useful because it relieves pain quickly and swiftly breaks down in the body. But illicit production and use have also skyrocketed because the lab-created opioid is cheaper and easier to produce than growing poppies and processing them into morphine and heroin. Currently, much of the illegal fentanyl flowing into the United States starts with precursor chemicals manufactured in China, then processed by cartels in Mexico and smuggled across the border. It’s more potent than heroin, so can be smuggled or mailed in smaller, easier-to-hide amounts.

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