- 10 Feb 2024 3:40 pm CET
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Interpol warns of increasing drug use of the dangerous opioid fentanyl in Europe. "The fact is that fentanyl is already in Europe, is extremely potent and must be treated as an immediate threat," said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
"Even small amounts of this drug can be deadly for consumers, but at the same time very profitable for the criminal networks behind its distribution," he told Welt am Sonntag.
Interpol recently conducted the first global survey of law enforcement authorities on the subject of fentanyl. Initial findings showed that the drug and similar substances "are distributed or manufactured in all regions of the world, including Europe". This included illegal and medical fentanyl in the form of powder, patches, tablets and liquids.
Even if the current seizures in Europe are "nowhere near" the quantities in North America, they should "cause concern among law enforcement and health authorities due to the high potential for addiction", Stock said.
Fifty times stronger than heroin
Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that is given to cancer patients, among others, but is also trafficked illegally. The synthetic opioid is 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is often produced in Mexico using chemicals manufactured primarily in China and smuggled from there to the USA. In the USA, around 100,000 people die from a fentanyl overdose every year.
According to experts, the starting point of the fentanyl crisis in the USA and Canada was the over-prescription of strong painkillers. According to the experts, countries in Europe are far more cautious. In Switzerland, doctors have recently seen no signs of a fentanyl wave in the country.
However, drug commissioners fear that heroin users are increasingly switching to cheaper and much more dangerous fentanyl. They are calling for more low-threshold services for users, including drug checking, rapid tests in drug consumption rooms and the use of the emergency medication naloxone, which even laypeople can administer.