Death by Fentanyl


America’s growing killer-heroin epidemic isn’t about heroin at all. It’s about a powerful prescription that broke bad. And for Big Pharma, the cure is as profitable as the disease.

It’s 50 times stronger than heroin. So potent, three grains are lethal to an adult. First synthesized in the 1960s, it’s been used to treat severe pain in cancer patients.

Today, fentanyl has two main sources: the prescription drug industry, and Mexican drug cartels. And it’s the quiet culprit behind the current “heroin” crisis, one of the deadliest drug epidemics in American history.

In the documentary above, “Death by Fentanyl,” Fusion’s The Naked Truth investigates the rise of fentanyl in all its forms … and its sometimes deadly consequences.

In the stories below, learn how fentanyl first hit the streets, Breaking Bad-style; how the drug has transformed life in one major U.S. city; and how some of its legal manufacturers also profit from drugs to reverse its deadly effects.

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Breaking very bad

The Walter White of Wichita

George Marquardt was an eccentric gadgeteer in Kansas. But his self-taught chemistry made drug dealers millions. And when federal agents finally caught him, America’s first fentanyl epidemic came to a screeching halt.

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"It's crazytown"

Last chances in the second city

Last year, Chicago hospitals reported 74 narcotics overdoses in 72 hours. On the city's notorious “Heroin Highway,” addicts and activists showed Fusion how fentanyl is taking over the black market — and their lives.

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Funny Pharm

The Lucrative Lifesaver

Politicians like Hillary and Obama are promoting a wonder drug to save opiate addicts from deadly overdoses. Its rising cost is enriching some of the same prescription drugmakers who produce the addictive opiates in the first place.

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