For too many people strung out on the drug, the sleep that follows a fentanyl hit could be permanent.
The highly addictive and potentially lethal drug has become a scourge across the United States and is taking a toll on the growing number of people living on the streets of Los Angeles.
About one-third of the 2,000 homeless deaths between April 2020 and March 2021 was from an overdose. While help is available, it is outpaced by the magnitude of misery on the streets. Homeless addicts in Los Angeles can be seen sprawled on sidewalks or passed out in alleys. Others peddle tiny doses and puffs of smoke to the desperate seeking their next high.
Fentanyl was developed to treat intense pain from ailments such as cancer. The use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is cheap to produce and is often sold as is or laced with other drugs, has exploded. Because it is 50 times more potent than heroin, even a small dose can be fatal.
It has quickly become the deadliest drug in the nation, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Two-thirds of the 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021 were attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The drug’s toll spreads far beyond the streets. Drug abuse can be a cause or symptom of homelessness. Both can also intersect with mental illnesses.