The music industry received devastating news on September 7, 2018, that the US rapper Mac Miller had overdosed and died. Fast forward to September 2019 and a man has been arrested and charged in connection with the rapper’s death. What was his offense? He sold Mac Miller fentanyl-laced pills.
Is his death linked to the huge opioid epidemic that has gripped the United States? How exactly did authorities connect the drug dealer to his death? How are numerous other individuals dying from similar drugs? This article lays out the facts that you should know.
How did all this happen? Let’s take a quick dive into Mac Miller’s death
TMZ was first to break the news of the rapper’s death who was then 26 years of age (born Malcolm McCormick). An emergency dispatch audio revealed that the first responders had been called in for a cardiac arrest patient. Law enforcement sources, however, revealed that he was dead when the paramedics arrived. They found him lying in his bedroom.
The evidence from his death scene also seemed to suggest an overdose. His assistant had found him assuming a praying position with his face already "blue" and blood oozing from his nose. A rolled-up note with "white powdery substance" was in his back pocket and his room had prescription pills and alcohol.
It was not long after his death that TMZ ran a story that the Los Angeles coroner’s office had confirmed his cause of death. A toxic mix of fentanyl, alcohol, and cocaine. It is just part of a grim statistic of thousands of other US citizens that have died from accidental overdose.
A year later, his drug dealer has been arrested and charged with manslaughter. Authorities have arrested Cameron James Pettit, a 28-year-old man who is an alleged distributor of a controlled substance. This charge could land him in federal prison for not less than 20 years.
However, that’s not all. Pettit’s 24-page complaint includes his connection to the death of Mac Miller. The document alleges that Pettit had been Miller’s supplier for several months. The rapper texted Pettit several days prior to his death asking for drugs.
Pettit had then agreed to supply Miller with oxycodone pills, Xanax and cocaine. Further revelations in the charge prove that the trafficker had delivered the drugs to the rapper. The supply apparently occurred in the rapper’s recording studio, where he was found dead two days later.
After the rapper had died, the charge reveals that Pettit sent several messages to some of his friends with guilty feelings. One of his texts read "most likely, I will die in jail". But why would he have guilty feelings? Had he known the lethal power of the drugs he supplied Mac Miller?
Los Angeles prosecutors say that the rapper thought he was buying oxycodone pills from his dealer. However, the pills that Pettit supplied the rapper were laced with fentanyl. Now, fentanyl is a powerful and addictive synthetic opioid that is 50 times as potent as heroin.
But fentanyl was just an obscure hospital drug roughly 6 years ago. How did it all change?
Fentanyl has taken over the US illicit drug trade in less than 10 years. Alongside other opioids, it is attributed to have killed more Americans at rates that were previously unimaginable even for other drugs. Its killer story first shot to the limelight after 14 overdoses in Rhode Island in 2013.
Retrospectively, the 2013 arrests of Rhode Island heroin dealers Victor "fat boy" Burgos and his accomplice could have been significant warning signs. They trafficked heroin from March to May 2013 alongside a then-unknown additional drug. It was the other drug that led to 14 deaths after lethal overdoses.
The providence journal even reported that Burgos had some guilt feelings. He had told one witness’s mother "I am going to spend the rest of my life in jail because of all those overdose deaths".
Rhode Island health officials later discovered the unidentified drug to be a synthetic opioid called acetyl fentanyl. Brown University’s medical anthropologist admitted to BuzzFeed News that that was the first time she and authorities discovered the drug.
Fast forward to 2019, six years on and fentanyl, together with its chemical cousins, has taken the "killer drug" crown. Previously used for cancer treatments and hospice care, it has now been found laced with heroin, cocaine, and meth. It has as such largely caused the worsening of the now infamous opioid crisis.
The menace has hit America so hard that even President Trump declared it a public health emergency. In 2016 alone, opioid accounted for at least 42,000 of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in the nation. The total drug overdose deaths driven by the crisis were even higher in 2017, hitting 70,000.
Opioids probably started being abused in the 1990s. Pharmaceutical companies intensified their painkiller marketing and doctors issued more prescriptions. The results were increased addiction rates for the opioid painkillers that were misused and overdose deaths started getting featured by the media.
In the 2000s heroin flooded the illicit drug market and caused a second wave of the opioid crisis. Drug dealers then got a ready market amongst individuals who were addicted to opioid painkillers but needed a cheaper alternative.
However, it was not until the arrival of fentanyl that the opioid menace showed its full deadly potential. This is probably due to the fact fentanyl is way more potent than all the previously consumed opioid drugs. At first, the 3,015 deaths tied to it out of the fatal 26,000 opioid overdoses in 2013 never caused any alarm.
Increased demand for heroin going into 2014 made its dealers to stretch their supply by lacing the drug with fentanyl. Going into 2015, deaths tied to fentanyl had spiked by 500%. By 2015, the opioid epidemic had reached a point where the nation’s life expectancy had fallen for two consecutive years.
A majority of the users overdosed without knowing as fentanyl was added to other drugs to make them stronger. BuzzFeed reported that a majority of those who died due to fentanyl in Ohio who had a history of heroin abuse. As such, they might have taken accidentally ingested fentanyl contained in heroin.
Fentanyl also caused increased drug tolerance amongst its users making them regard heroin as an insignificant source of high. This led them to consume more fentanyl and as such the addiction problem was intensified.
Fentanyl was originally manufactured by pharmaceutical companies as a painkiller. It was combined with other medicines and used for anesthetic purposes. It has quick pain-relieving capabilities which made it a preferred painkiller. However, it is mixed with other opioids and used for leisure purposes
Its reaction is very quick and a fentanyl user will feel the drug for at least 2 hours in their body. Its uptake involves through a nasal spray, spraying on specific body organs or through the mouth. As such, its use is largely dependent on its form or the drugs it has been combined with.
The effects of this drug are varied on different people depending on the following factors:
Common Effects of Fentanyl:
The most intense side effects include respiratory problems characterized by a shortage of breath, low blood pressure, chest pains, passing out, choking, coma and even death. Long term users experience mood instability, constipation, reduced libido, as well as menstrual and respiratory problems.
The fundamental method of action for this drug is through activation of micro opioid receptors in the brain. In the nervous system, they inhibit the release of neurotransmitters. This leads to the release of several hormones that cause a wide range of feelings including happiness, contentment, and pain relief.
It is used medicinally to reduce intense pain especially during medical procedures such as surgery. It is also prescribed for cancer, back injury, nerve injury, and major trauma.
The drug was first manufactured by Paul Janssen in 1960 and it was approved in 1968 for medicinal use. However, only 1,600 Kgs have been used for healthcare since then. Morphine, which is 50 to 100 times less powerful is commonly used in numerous healthcare centers as its alternative.
When people extract fentanyl from its patch for individual use through injection, they risk numerous side effects. This is because it is extremely difficult to estimate the dosage. Even under medical prescription fentanyl use can be classified as illegal. This occurs under the following scenarios:
Under illegal settings, fentanyl is mixed with other drugs for enhanced potency. Under illicit manufacture, it can be:
In the case of Mac Miller, authorities allege that he might have gotten oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl. Oxycodone is largely marketed as an effective pain reliever with minimal consideration of its addictive potential. More than one in seven Americans held its prescription in 2012.
Initially, the illicit trade of synthetic fentanyl was fueled by numbered capable chemists. Their production was limited and this meant that its supply was also minimal amongst the general public. Even law enforcement officials found it easy to clamp the manufacturers down.
As its demand intensified during the third wave of the opioid crisis, new players entered the market. Mexican drug trafficking rings began manufacturing and shipping intense volumes of the drug into the United States. China’s unregulated pharmaceutical industry also allowed producers of synthetic opioids to increase production seamlessly.
The US officials maintain that China now remains the chief source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related drugs into the nation. Significant amounts are trafficked through mail as most of the other trafficking is done through Canada and Mexico.
The internet has also had its huge share of contribution to the rise in the fentanyl epidemic. Aspiring chemists can find countless resources on how to produce and manipulate the drug from legal and illegal sites. Illegal trafficking is also done through the deep dark web which is harder for authorities to trace.
Opioids are mainly obtained from opium plants while others are manufactured in chemists synthetically. The same plants are the sources of heroin, one of the traditionally most addictive and illicit drugs. Some of the common painkillers sources from opium plants include oxycodone and hydrocodone.
Opiates are derived from the opium plants and never undergo synthetic manipulation for use in medicine. Some of the common opiates include morphine and opium. However, they also act on the brain but their potency is lower as compared to most opioids.
The drugs block pain sensations and in turn, cause an influx in the production of dopamine. However, the feel-good feelings caused by dopamine never last and soon the brain demands more opioids. This can trigger a dangerous cycle where a user would rather take the drugs than participate in refreshing activities.
Soon enough, one becomes used to taking varying amounts and their brain demands more to get the same high. Increased dependence causes one’s brain to only produce dopamine when activated by the opioids. The brain furthermore craves for the drugs even when their intense use has deadly effects.
When a user attempts to give up using the drugs, they experience intense withdrawal symptoms. Fentanyl withdrawal starts 12 hours after the last dose.
The symptoms go on to about a week and they are intense from day 1-3. They include:
Yes. But only under supervised medical recovery treatment. The withdrawal symptoms described above make it very complicated for a user to quit opioids on their own. In fact, the American Society of Addiction Medication (ASAM) condemns quitting "cold turkey". This is because it only causes stronger cravings.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists advices that the safest way to alleviate addiction from opioid addiction is through supervised rehabilitation. They recommend a strain of medically supervised treatment options ranging from therapy to medicines and professional guidance.
One of the most effective medical treatment methods is supervised detox. Research shows that it heightens the chances of recovery for individuals with alcohol and substance abuse problems. This is because detox allows one to experience minimal to zero withdrawal symptoms.
The stigma associated with opioid addiction makes numerous people avoid rehabilitation. Numerous individuals spend a long time in denial risking numerous side effects and long term addiction. The chances of overdose during long term use of opioids are very high especially for strong drugs like fentanyl.
However, there is zero shame in seeking help and taking back control of your life. Addiction helpline America is one of the best resources you can use in any US state. You can get directed to the nearest verified treatment center saving you numerous hours that you would have spent on research.
A drug dealer has been arrested and accused of selling Mac Miller oxycodone laced with fentanyl which induced his overdose. Fentanyl, together with its opioid cousins, has been a huge menace in the US causing massive loss of lives through overdose.
The most common drugs laced with fentanyl include heroin, cocaine, and other opioids like oxycodone. Fentanyl addiction has severe withdrawal symptoms and it is ill-advised to attempt unsupervised recovery.
However, there is still hope because Addiction Helpline America helps connect people with rehabilitation centers located in the state that you live in. It takes just a few seconds to search through the database and get the right help you need to start your journey to recovery.
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