NYT: Opioid users are now using the web to get drugs

People are turning to the Internet to get their opioids now that the federal government is focusing on taking dealers off the street. The New York Times reported it’s causing the feds a lot of anxiety.

In a growing number of arrests and overdoses, law enforcement officials say, the drugs are being bought online. Internet sales have allowed powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — the fastest-growing cause of overdoses nationwide — to reach living rooms in nearly every region of the country, as they arrive in small packages in the mail.

The authorities have been frustrated in their efforts to crack down on the trade because these sites generally exist on the so-called dark web, where buyers can visit anonymously using special browsers and make purchases with virtual currencies like Bitcoin.

This falls under the category of, “Oh wow, addicts who want their drugs will really do whatever they can to get them.” It’s pretty amusing, in a #headdesk sort of way, to see prosecutors and law enforcement act all shocked when something like this happens. Again, via NYT:

The dark web “has become such an important source of distribution for this sort of deadly drug,” said Kathryn Haun, who was a prosecutor in San Francisco until last month, and the Justice Department’s first Digital Currency Coordinator. “It has enabled distribution channels that previously didn’t exist.”…

“It has come to play a key role in the overdose crisis,” said Tim Plancon, who oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration in Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio, states at the epicenter of the overdose crisis. “It’s expanded beyond just your traditional drug smuggling and trafficking. There is just a lot more involved with it when you are dealing with folks on the dark web with virtual currencies.”…

“We could give you a pretty good idea of the drug traffickers in town who can order kilos from Mexico — that’s a known commodity,” said Joseph M. Pinjuh, the chief of the organized crime task force in the United States attorney’s office in Cleveland. “What’s harder to track is the person ordering this from his grandmother’s basement.”

Meanwhile, the rest of Americans with working brain cells are sitting there going, “Well, yeah!” when they hear the information. This is about a shocking as hearing the Dallas Cowboys are hoping to get Zack Martin signed to a new contract or the Jets will probably have a bad season (sorry, Jazz). It’s not surprising at all to see people go to extraordinary lengths to get their fix.

It’s possible drug companies should consider their own online marketplace as a way for people to get fentanyl without going to a pharmacy. They would still have to get a prescription, but it is possible the cost would go down, if the middle man is eliminated.

But it’s also an indication the war on drugs is a failure. For every Silk Road shutdown, another will rise to take its place which may end up being more successful. With the government deciding to spend billions of dollars in crackdowns or throwing people in prison and tossing away the key, you’d think other ideas would be considered. Mississippi and Ohio are suing drug companies over the crisis, while The Dallas Morning News blamed doctors for overprescribing opioids. It wouldn’t be surprising if someone in Congress tries to make fentanyl illegal. The fact the DEA praised China’s decision to ban fentanyl probably means some Congress critter is going to propose a law at some point (if it hasn’t happened already).

The root of the problem could be how it’s easier for doctors to just prescribe a pill to help with pain if they’re inundated with patients. A “quick fix” for chronic pain tends to be the easiest way to solve the problem, but also potentially the most dangerous. Drug companies should also consider different pain medication drugs which aren’t necessarily addicting. There’s also plenty of onus on parents to make sure their kids aren’t getting hold of drugs, and teaching them about the dangers of overdosing. Whether any of these solutions will actually be considered is a entirely different question, and probably won’t happen. Instead, people will just rush to the government to solve the problem, meaning the war on drugs (legal and illegal) will get even costlier.