Deaths from the synthetic opioid fentanyl increased 23% to account for two-thirds of overdoses last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recent death of Memphis rapper Gangsta Boo is reportedly linked to a fentanyl laced product and a cause of outcry from the hip hop community. Even Boosie Badazz is urging drug addicts to go back to crack because fentanyl kills.

With 3,040 lives lost, Michigan recorded more drug overdose deaths than ever last year, breaking the previous record from 2020, according to new provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a heavily regulated legal medication, prescribed largely for pain relief in cancer patients, postsurgery and for people with chronic pain who have developed tolerance for other opioids.

When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl can be given as a shot, a patch that is placed on a person’s skin, as lozenges that are sucked like cough drops or film that sits between the cheek and gum, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Inc. It also can be sprayed in the nose or under the tongue.

Fentanyl is made in clandestine labs in Mexico from easily sourced chemicals. In 2020, a surge in overdose deaths was blamed in part on the pandemic. Stress, anxiety and fear caused many in recovery to relapse. Those already using drugs upped their consumption. And treatment centers and rehabilitation facilities closed or reduced caseloads to accommodate social distancing. Some of that remained true in 2021 and 2022.


Local Connections

What began as a delivery of drugs in a Sony PlayStation box led agents to a stash location in Novi where a drug organization stored more than 30 kilograms of fentanyl and over half a million dollars. Yesterday, the California-based leader of that organization pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy.

Reportedly, Maurice M. McCoy, Jr. of Moreno Valley, California, led a drug and money laundering conspiracy that had distribution hubs in multiple cities across the United States, including Novi, Michigan, where the organization stored more than 30 kilograms of fentanyl and over half a million dollars. The DEA’s July 2017 raid resulting in the discovery of the drugs and cash was, at the time, the largest fentanyl seizure in Michigan and one of the largest in the country.

The seizure was the result of agents’ creative investigative work after they traced a UPC code off a Sony PlayStation box that was used to deliver heroin to a drug customer. That UPC code led to the Novi condominium where the PlayStation was active. Agents identified couriers who crisscrossed the U.S. delivering kilograms, transporting bulk currency, or laundering money, leading to multiple arrests and additional seizures in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Baltimore, Maryland, where the organization also operated.

“Fentanyl is now the leading cause of overdose deaths. It is inherently dangerous and 50 times more potent than heroin. The number of lives saved by this seizure is infinite. Individuals who traffic deadly drugs in our community will be held accountable for the harm they inflict on our citizens,” stated United States Attorney Dawn Ison.

“More than 15 million deadly dosages of fentanyl were seized from this organization – that is more than enough to kill the entire population of Michigan.

United States Attorney Dawn Ison

Fentanyl is responsible for the majority of drug overdose deaths across the nation and in Michigan. Nationally, fentanyl was involved in 71,238 deaths in 2021, compared with 57,834 in 2020.

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