Death, made in Mexico: Traffickers embrace fentanyl

By KATE LINTHICUM

September 1, 2019

 

Melissa and Daryl McKinsey first heard about “Mexican Oxy” last year when their 19-year-old son Parker called in tears.

“I need to go to rehab,” he said.

Several months earlier, a friend had given Parker a baby-blue pill that was stamped on one side with the letter M.

It resembled a well-known brand of oxycodone, the prescription painkiller that sparked the American opioid epidemic.

But the pill was actually a far more powerful and more addictive opioid: fentanyl.

Within weeks, Parker was crushing and freebasing up to eight pills a day.

Developed decades ago as a painkiller of last resort, fentanyl has surpassed heroin and prescription pills to become the leading driver of the opioid crisis and is now the top cause of U.S. overdose deaths.

Last year, more than 31,000 people in the United States died after taking fentanyl or one of its close chemical relatives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No other drug in modern history has killed more people in a year.

Fentanyl started appearing on U.S. streets in significant quantities in 2013, most of it produced in China and shipped in the mail.

Today, officials say the majority is smuggled from Mexico, where it is remaking the drug trade as traffickers embrace it over heroin, which is more difficult and expensive to produce.