May 20, 2022 – Last year, fentanyl — a synthetic opioid — caused more overdose deaths than any other drug has in a single year. The second-deadliest drug was meth, which is also produced in labs (the kind you might have seen in “Breaking Bad”).

Together, fentanyl and meth helped make 2021 the worst year for drug overdoses in U.S. history: The full-year death toll topped 100,000 for the first time, the C.D.C. reported last week. Both drugs have proliferated so quickly because they are synthetic.

Traffickers prefer synthetics because they can make and ship the drugs around the world more quickly and discreetly. Cartels no longer need a large, exposed field with dozens of workers to mass-produce drugs; they can just start a lab in a tucked-away warehouse or apartment building with a handful of chemists. And these technicians can make more powerful drugs, which lets traffickers smuggle smaller amounts for the same high.

Drug users often prefer synthetics, too: The drugs are typically cheaper, even though they are more potent.   


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