Fentanyl, Inc. | Ben Westhoff

Summary of: Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic
By: Ben Westhoff


Fentanyl, Inc. is a striking exploration of the deadly synthetic opioid epidemic sweeping through the United States and beyond. Ben Westhoff delves into the factors that led to this crisis, from pharmaceutical companies to Chinese chemists and Mexican cartels. He chronicles the four-year journey that puts him face-to-face with all sides of the epidemic. Through an understanding of the origins of fentanyl and the scientists who create these dangerous substances, Westhoff aims to offer clarity on the potential consequences of continuing the war on drugs and highlights the urgent need for harm-reduction practices.

Fentanyl Epidemic Unveiled

Ben Westhoff’s book uncovers the pathology leading to the global opioid crisis. Four years of investigative research reveals a dark connection between drug-makers in China and cartels in Mexico fueling the West’s demand for synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Westhoff’s bold claim is that America’s war on drugs cannot succeed, and that the “harm-reduction” approach of Canada and Europe must be adopted instead. With a clear and realistic picture of addiction in contemporary American life, it’s no wonder why The National Book Review praised this extensively reported and vividly written book as mandatory reading.

America’s Deadliest Addiction

Fentanyl, a synthetic drug many times more potent than heroin, is the driving force behind America’s worst-ever drug epidemic. Users often overdose and die due to its high potency. Pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue, must take responsibility for the crisis, as many addicts switched to powerful synthetics when prescription drug deaths leveled off. Westhoff’s book highlights the severity of the epidemic and shines a light on the dangers of black market opioids. The death toll surpasses that of crack, methamphetamine, car accidents, and shootings, making fentanyl America’s deadliest addiction.

The Dangerous World of Synthetic Drugs

The creation of synthetic drugs often begins with the intention of producing beneficial medicines, but people find a way to use them for illicit purposes. Author, Westhoff, notes that MDMA has few side effects and could potentially treat PTSD and other psychological disorders. However, the DEA banned it in 1985. Fentanyl and its analogs, discovered by chemist Paul Janssen in 1959, have fueled drug addictions and overdose deaths, with the drugs frequently mixed into other substances. Westhoff warns that not only are the drugs themselves dangerous, but the unknown proper dosages make them all the more lethal.

Mexican Cartels, Chinese Manufacturers, and the US Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis in the US is fueled by drug dealers getting their supply of fentanyl-laced heroin and meth from Mexico, with Chinese manufacturers providing the precursors. The DEA and US Customs are struggling to stop the influx of synthetic drugs coming through foreign packages, with only a small fraction being inspected. The majority of the drugs come through official border crossings or tunnels and border walls make no difference. Mexican cartel members move the drugs using small-time dealers and blending in with the community. The inconsistency in cutting fentanyl into heroin means that neither dealers nor users know its potency. Chinese manufacturer Yuancheng sells precursors to buyers in Mexico and the US, with subsidies from the Chinese government. India also supplies to the opioid trade in Africa and the Middle East, but lags behind China in production. The author warns of the potential for India to ramp up production and exacerbate the opioid crisis.

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