Three milligrams of fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, can be fatal. The equivalent of a ton of heroin in fentanyl weighs only 20 kg.
Europe is threatened by a flood of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, which killed more than 70,000 people in the US in 2021, mostly young people and teenagers. First on the line of the new drug war is Belgium, as a major entry point for narcotics who arrive from Latin America. “Fentanyl is a bigger threat than heroin or cocaine. Fentanyl is the cocaine of the future,” Christian Vanderveren, the head of Belgian customs, told the Times of London.
A series of raids in which small amounts of fentanyl have been seized in Europe in recent months it sparked fears that the drug that killed musician Prince had spread to Europebecause the Mexican cartels they are trying to create a new market. Belgium seized a record number last year 110,000 kg of cocaine in the port of Antwerp, an amount that far exceeds the 10 grams of fentanyl seized at Brussels airport. However, the numbers are misleading because only three milligrams of fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, can be a lethal dose. “With those 10 grams of fentanyl, you could kill 3,000 people in Belgium.” warned Vincent Van Kuikenborn, Belgium’s justice minister, who lives under police protection after an attempted kidnapping of him was discovered last fall.
Two cartels control both markets
Vincent Van Kuikenborn points out that they are the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels decided that fentanyl would go to the USa cocaine to Europe. “But those two cartels control both markets. It’s really easy for them to use the same supply lines and that’s why our customs service is very, very careful. We’re ready for worse times,” Van Kuikenborn said. He is worried that he would the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels could try to create a new market by mixing fentanyl with cocaine, which is still popular in Europe. ” Fentanyl is very cheap and cocaine use is widespread in Europe, more than in the US. That could be the next thing,” Van Kuikenborn said. The Belgian justice minister will host US security agencies at a meeting of the European Coalition Against Illicit Drugs in April, which will include officials from Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
Fentanyl is an extremely strong synthetic opioid analgesic (pain reliever), which is quite similar to morphine, but is 50 to 100 times stronger than him. It was created in 1959 by Dr. Paul Janssen, Belgian chemist and founder of “Janssen Pharmaceutica.” This synthetic drug has been used in recent years developed into an export hit for Mexican drug cartels. One of the reasons is the lower cost of production compared to traditional medicines. The equivalent of a ton of heroin in fentanyl weighs only 20 kg, and Mexican laboratories can produce hundreds of thousands of doses per week. For the production of one kilogram of fentanyl it only takes two hours. The average price of a kilogram of fentanyl in Mexico is $5,000, while in American cities like Los Angeles, the same amount is sold for $200,000.
More profitable than heroin
“Fentanyl is far more profitable than heroin because of the inherent advantages of synthetic drugs. With synthetics, you can easily produce more and more supplies if you have the chemicals, the labs and the technicians,” Jeremy Douglas, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Asia, told The Times.
Although fentanyl is mainly produced in Mexico, chemicals for its production (precursors) come from Asia, mainly from China, India, Thailand and Vietnam. Experts say cooperation with China will be key to efforts to stem the flow of fentanyl to the European continent, but dialogue with Beijing is often hampered by political tensions. “China has done everything possible, out of goodwill, to help the US solve this problem,” Qin Gang, China‘s foreign minister, told Newsweek.
“Although heroin remains the most widely used illicit opioid in Europe and the drug responsible for the majority of drug-related deaths, there is growing concern about the role of synthetic opioids in Europe’s drug problem. Fentanyl derivatives are of particular concern because of the group’s central role in the opioid problem in North America. Deaths due to fentanyl consumption have been reported in Europe, and in the past they dfentanyl derivatives were the most common form of opioid consumed in Estonia and sometimes reported by other countries,” said a report published by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) last year.