Author(s): Ben Westhoff
A new crop of chemicals is radically changing the recreational-drug landscape. Known as Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), these chemicals include replacements for known drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and heroin. They are synthetic, made in a laboratory, and are much more potent than traditional drugs - and, all too often, they are tragically lethal. Fentanyl, Inc. is the first deep-dive investigation of a hazardous illicit industry that has created a worldwide epidemic, ravaging communities and overwhelming and confounding the government agencies that are challenged to combat it. Drugs like fentanyl, with arcane acronyms like 4-ANPP, K2, and NBOMe, were all originally developed in legitimate laboratories for proper medicinal purposes. Their formulas were then hijacked by rogue chemists, largely in China but increasingly in other places, too, who change their molecular structures to stay ahead of the law, a process that makes the drugs' effects impossible to predict. Westhoff has infiltrated this shadowy world. In Fentanyl, Inc., he recounts how he tracked down a mysterious drug baron in New Zealand who unintentionally sparked one aspect of the synthetic-drug revolution. He visits the shady factories in China from which these drugs emanate, providing startling and original reporting on how China's vast chemical industry operates. He chronicles the lives of addicts and dealers, families of victims, law enforcement officers, and underground drug-awareness organisers in the U.S. and Europe. Together, they provide the shocking full picture of a calamity we are only just beginning to understand. And yet from its depths, as Westhoff relates, are emerging new strategies that may provide essential long-term solutions to the drug crisis that has affected so many.