Crime Watch Daily investigates New York City's opioid crisis
12/11/2017 3:05 pm PST
Crime Watch Daily is in New York with an all-new investigation into the opioid crisis going on around the country and in the city.
And today we focus on the drug fentanyl. It's a synthetic opioid that's 50 times more powerful than heroin.
And as our Special Correspondent Amy Dash reports, fentayl is gaining in popularity cause it's cheaper to produce and you only need a tiny grain of it to get high.
Where do angels hide, when the devil drug named fentanyl is on the loose? And if you thought the opioid epidemic was bad, it's worse than you ever imagined, because of fentanyl, some 50 times stronger than heroin.
Street dealers pushing liquid death are selling heroin laced with fentanyl. Just a trace, a touch, a breath of fentanyl can be deadly.
"The amount of fentanyl which could kill you is, really the size of a couple of snowflakes," said Bridget.
Now Crime Watch Daily is breaking new information about how illicit fentanyl is smuggled into America and tell the heartbreaking stories of how this deadly drug worms its way into some of the nation's nicest suburban neighborhoods.
James Hunt is the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York division. He says most of the illegal fentanyl comes from Mexico's powerful Sinaloa Cartel, allegedly run by the infamous "El Chapo."
"The Mexican cartels supplies 80 percent of the heroin to the United States, and they supply the majority of the fentanyl also," said Hunt. "As much money as that can be made in heroin 10 times more can be made by distributing fentanyl."
So why are the cartels cutting heroin with fentanyl?
"They can mix the heroin with fentanyl, make it stronger, addicts chase the addiction, they are always looking for a better high," said Hunt. "They want you to come back, so they're making it as strong as possible so you say 'That's the best,' and go back for more."
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is in a maximum security jail in Manhattan awaiting trial on smuggling charges here in the U.S. But even with the reputed drug lord locked up, James Hunt says his the Sinaloa Cartel is still operating full force.
"Majority of drugs come across in tractor-trailers," said Hunt. "So if traffickers want to secrete drugs in containers of legitimate goods, they can do it. I mean to search every truck would be impossible, it would stop all commerce. So, you know, they have the advantage."
Fentanyl sounds bad. It is bad. But it was invented for all the right reasons. It's a potent synthetic opioid designed to help cancer patients deal with unbearable pain.
Individuals who've kicked the super addictive drug before it was too late are rare. Tragically many teens are easy prey for the deadly seductress and need professional help.
"It's very difficult for parents to get them in, especially once they hit 18. They pound their chests and tell you what you can or can't do," said John Venza, vice president of Outreach.
John Venza is a well-respected drug counselor on Long Island, New York. His own son Garrett was hooked on heroin and fentanyl.
"I've gone over it a thousand times in my head, you always replay what you could have done differently, and then you surrender to the fact that you always did the best you could," said Venza.
Venza is a good father who raised his son right -- until his first semester of college. He says everything unraveled when Garrett got a job at a fast-food joint. He says Garrett snorted heroin. Many teens snort instead of injecting it. Garrett had been using for a little over four months when some of his friends ratted him out for his own good.
John Venza says he and his wife helped Garrett get clean with medications that block the part of the brain that craves the heroin high. For 21 months it worked. Garrett was sober. But then...
"He ran into somebody he knew from high school," said Venza. "He chose to get heroin from this kid. He came to my wife and I saying, 'I really messed up.'"
America's addiction to opioids like heroin and the much more powerful fentanyl doesn't seem to discriminate.
"I was real enough to know it could be my kid at any given time but I felt that he was doing pretty well and he was on the right track," said John Venza, a drug treatment counselor whose own son became addicted to heroin.
After about 21 months of sobriety. Garrett relapsed. One snort of heroin is all it took.
"The day I found out, I was sitting in my living room with my wife, and I said 'You need to prepare for him to die,'" said Venza.
Those words would come back to haunt John Venza in the most horrible way possible. It was the night Garrett came home late from work.
"He said 'All right, Dad, good night, I love you.' I said 'I love you too,' and he went to bed," said Venza. "Next morning he was dead on the bedroom floor, and rigor mortis had already set in. There was no reviving him. It was a horrific moment in time, and everybody was screaming. I still allow myself when I need to grieve and I need to go to that place, because you know we're never going to be the same again once we lose our kids.
"An ironic twist of fate that I've helped so many other kids and this is how my son died," said Venza.
Substance-abuse expert Steve Chassman tells Crime Watch Daily that technology has made it easier than ever for kids to score a bag.
"Because of text messages, because of the internet, you don't even have to go to certain neighborhoods anymore, you can just order on your texts and drug dealers are marketers now, and 'Just give me your address and I will deliver,'" said Chassman.
In New York City fentanyl kills someone every seven hours.
"We have more overdose deaths than not only homicides, but homicides and traffic accidents combined," said NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
"We call them drug mills where they bag up literally millions of glassines," said Brennan. "When we hit a search warrant we'll find thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of the little envelopes. And it's usually very low-level workers, many of them might be here illegally."
"There were 64 kilograms of pure fentanyl," said Bridget Brennan.
How many people could that kill?
"Millions. Many millions," said Brennan.
Enough fentanyl to kill 32 million people.
"We do debriefings, we look at background information, we can also look at border crossings," said Brennan. "Right before a lot of drugs are distributed there'll be a lot of chatter. I mean a lot of arrangements being made, there'll be a lot of activity."
The cops have one goal: Put the kingpins in the clink and get the smack off the streets.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.
Getting fentanyl off the streets is a full time job for the dedicated law enforcement people on the front lines of the drug war.