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Fentanyl, the deadly trap plaguing the US-Mexico border

Fentanyl, the deadly trap plaguing the US-Mexico border

Elena prepares her second daily dose of heroin. She has been injecting herself for 20 years, but since the overdose who almost killed her last year is afraid because the drug in Mexicali it is now mixed with fentanylwithout the consumers knowing.

The sample “it is positive for fentanyl”they confirm after a test in La Sala, where users from this Mexican city, on the border with the United States, can safely consume the drug they buy on the street and avoid crises.

The test reveals in minutes if it is contaminated with this synthetic opioid that looms as a global threat.

since 2019 “There is not a single heroin test that does not come out positive for fentanyl”says Said Slim, coordinator of Verter, the NGO that created La Sala in 2018 to protect consumers in Mexicali in a vulnerable situation.

The organization’s 2022 records indicate that overdoses doubled in one year. Worse still, there are daily deaths in Mexicali, with a million inhabitants, according to the authorities.


With a smiling expression on a face torn by addiction, Elena explains that her crisis occurred despite the fact that she had injected herself with her usual dose of heroin.

“They put that vial on me to bring me back because I was very strong.” He talks about naloxone, a drug capable of reversing opioid poisoning and restricted in Mexico.

Elena, who works as a cleaner, cut her dose in half and almost always injects herself at La Sala, a pioneering initiative in Latin America, where, as in Europe, alarm bells are sounding for the lethal and most addictive mixtures of fentanyl.

Elena, 50 years old, injects herself in the right side. “I did it intramuscularly”he comments, explaining that through the veins the effect “It feels nice, but it ends sooner.”

The NGO provides users with consumption kits that prevent hepatitis or HIV infections and monitors their health.

Homeless people or sex workers come to the premises, where they are greeted by name, receive health advice and guidance on abuses of authority.

“They still make me feel that I am a human being”, says Ricardo, looking tired but serene, who has used heroin for 26 years. He, too, was nearly killed by fentanyl.

“When the change of heroin -so to speak original- to (the mixture with) fentanyl arose, I suffered an overdose of which, by the grace of God, I am here”remember.

Adapting was “very difficult” for Ricardo, 59, who lowered the dose to half a gram daily.

fentanyl “anesthetizes you” and let “practically asleep”describes the man, who sells sweets on the street. “People are not stupid and (…) they realize when one is under the influence.”

Mexicali suffers the blow of the synthetic opioid crisis in the United States, where more than 70,000 people have died since last August intoxicated with these substances, mainly fentanyl.

Washington points to the Mexican cartels as preponderant in opioid production and trafficking, and the issue dominates the binational agenda.

But the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, denies that it is produced in Mexico and assures that it is imported from China, after which the cartels make pills that are easy to traffic due to their size. Criminals often mix fentanyl with methamphetamine and cocaine as well.

elusive antidote

Carlos Romero, deputy director of Mexicali Police and Traffic, says that daily this unit deals with between three and six deaths of suspected addicts, who usually ignored the mixture.

“Many are overdoses (…), the presence of fentanyl has grown a lot in the city”write down.

Some occur on the street, others in “riding halls”, as clandestine consumption sites are known. But also in homes, adds Romero, ruling out that the problem is exclusive to marginal sectors.

Julio Buenrostro, coordinator of the Red Cross, indicates that overdoses represent up to 25% of the emergencies they attend. However, with naloxone “we were able to save a ton of lives.”

Without regular access to the medicine, paramedics, firefighters and even police officers turn to Verter, who gets it donated in the United States.

“If we didn’t have naloxone, it would take longer for a patient to come out” of the crisis, explains Gloria Puente, an emergency technician from the Red Cross, who asks the government for support.

But López Obrador criticizes that the United States authorized its free sale to stop the mortality, arguing that it will not “to the bottom of the problem”and discusses banning fentanyl as a pain reliever.

Ricardo, for his part, warns of the danger. “I lived it firsthand”says this man who walks the streets leaning on a walker where he carries his belongings, while two dogs follow him faithfully.

Source: AFP

Source: Gestion

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