What the Fentanyl Crisis Actually Looks Like

The headlines are sensational, but many victims use fentanyl unknowingly and die quietly. Peter Attia hosts a Texas sheriff's deputy on his podcast to learn how we got here and what we can do

February 23, 2023

“I’m not trying to do a ‘say no to drugs’ talk. I’m just trying to bring awareness to this crisis and what we’re dealing with,” said Anthony Hipolito, a sheriff’s deputy in Hays County, Texas. “We have to get rid of the stigma. We want kids to be able to come forward and ask for help.”

Hipolito, a law enforcement officer of 24 years, has watched the opioid crisis morph over the past decade into its current form, an epidemic of 100,000-plus overdose deaths per year in the U.S., the majority linked to the extremely powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Having observed the ways fentanyl use has spread and witnessed the impact of the crisis on grieving families, Hipolito has begun engaging his community in talks to raise awareness about the drug and its dangers; his primary audiences are teenagers and their parents. This week, Hipolito joined physician Peter Attia on the podcast The Drive.

Though fentanyl is all over the news, it can be difficult to grasp how it became so widespread and what its effects look like up close. Who makes illicit fentanyl, and how does so much of it get into the U.S.? Why would drug dealers use fentanyl to lace other substances, potentially endangering the lives of their customers? How exactly does fentanyl get from a Mexican cartel distribution center into the hands of a high schooler thousands of miles away? Do criminal repercussions steer kids clear of drugs that may contain fentanyl, or just away from calling for help? Where is the line between harm reduction and enabling?

Attia and Hipolito dive into all this and more. Like everyone else, neither has all the answers (nor claims to), but the latter’s experience — working both against the gangs who spread fentanyl, and with the kids and parents who suffer — has given him expertise worth listening to. Tune in to the podcast, or read the summary.

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