Fentanyl, developed as an opioid pain medication, is behind 81 percent of drug related deaths reported in Estonia. Two men died of overdoses this month despite recent successes in the authorities’ efforts to reduce the supply of the drug.
In the rural municipality of Kose in Harju County, three people have died of an overdose of fentanyl this year. In the most recent case, on Aug. 15 two men used the drug behind a service station in Kose-Risti. One of them died, the other one could be revived by doctors at the East-Tallinn central hospital.
But the man was found dead in his apartment two days later, killed by an overdose of fentanyl. Both of the men had family, four children lost their fathers to the drug.
The police were able to confirm that the fentanyl consumed by the two men was bought in Tallinn.
Though progress has recently been made against the distribution and consumption of the drug, it is still brought into the country in large quantities. The Central Criminal Police recently arrested two brothers and in their raid confiscated 2.5 kg of fentanyl.
The brothers were caught as they offered an informant of the police a much larger amount of the drug as a few single doses would have required, weekly Eesti Ekspress reported at the time.
According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, the amount would have sufficed for some 1.5 million individual doses. In terms of those, the confiscated amount has a market value of more than €2 million.
The two brothers had been dealing fentanyl at least since the beginning of the year, the investigation brought out. They had a steady base of buyers, and part of the transactions involved were done in Bitcoin, the police reported.
Today fentanyl overdoses account for 81 percent of all drug-related deaths in Estonia. The number of deaths has been going back for a while, Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt (SDE) wrote in a recent opinion piece in daily Postimees.
“It’s clear that the number of deaths is decreasing, and one important factor behind this has been the police’s determined effort to reduce the supply by going after the importers of the drug as well as the distributors,” Anvelt wrote, adding that there had been successes working against fentanyl dealers as well.
Anvelt defended the work of the authorities against the impression in the population that the police specifically targeted cannabis users and dealers. “Looking at the confiscated amount of synthetic drugs in terms of the number of doses, it’s clear to see that the number of doses of synthetic drugs, including fentanyl, is higher than that of [cannabis products] confiscated by the police,” Anvelt wrote.
Illicit use of fentanyl has been reported since the mid-1970s. There are dozens of chemical analogues produced and sold. While the opioid has a stronger sedating effect than heroin, in terms of its physical effects it occurs in concentrations much higher than those of street heroin.
As the dose is difficult to set and in the past problems occurred in the drug’s medical use as well, users without a previous tolerance for opioids are in serious danger even using low doses. Once the drug is in the human system, it is very difficult to stop its effect, which is why for users who overdose often times medical help comes too late.
Editor: Dario Cavegn