Why would anyone cut heroin with fentanyl? It’s cheap, these researchers say

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By Maggie Fox

Drug overdose deaths are skyrocketing — up 10 percent in 2017 alone — and close to half the deaths are caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

These lab-made drugs can be very potent and they are increasingly showing up in supplies of drugs that buyers believed were heroin. Because the fentanyl and related drugs are so powerful, it’s easy to overdose. That’s why so many users die.

In fact, deaths from synthetic opioids now outpace deaths from heroin or other opioid drugs in the U.S., according to federal data.

But why cut heroin with fentanyl in the first place? Researchers in California say there are two reasons. “It’s cheaper than heroin, and it’s smaller, lighter and easier to smuggle,” said Sarah Mars, who studies drug addiction and policy at the University of California San Francisco.

Mars and colleagues have been interviewing drug users across the country, along with some street-level dealers who also use their own products. They also delved into the research being done on drug prices and distribution patterns to answer questions about why fentanyl and fentanyl-like drugs are becoming so common.

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