Episode 32: How Synthetic Drugs Conquered the Globe

The single biggest driver of the overdose crisis today is not oxycodone or heroin: It’s fentanyl. Drug trends around the world are always in flux, and a wide-range of nebulous supply-and-demand factors are always in play. But according to “Fentanyl, Inc.,” a sprawling investigation into the global supply of illicit fentanyl by journalist Ben Westhoff, the advent of fentanyl is not driven by user-demand.

Rather, the prevalence of illicit fentanyl, largely produced in China, is part of a larger material history involving free trade, technology, and a web of complex geopolitics. On today’s show, co-host Zachary Siegel interviews Westhoff about his new book, diving into thorny topics that went unmentioned with his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. They discuss how Westhoff gained access to a clandestine lab in China, the prominent role that America’s War on Drugs has played in producing deadlier, more potent drugs that no user actually really wants, and finally, that in order to save the lives of people using drugs, the US must adopt innovative harm reduction strategies that have been tested around the world, like supervised injection sites and drug checking.
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You can buy Fentanyl, Inc. here.
Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy, Chad Crouch
Photo: Pixabay / edit Troy Farah

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