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Fentanyl: Understand your risks when using or dealing

As heroin dealers seek to improve the high users get from their product, they've increasingly turned to adding powdered fentanyl to their main product. It's caused an epidemic of overdose deaths in parts of the United States.

Several factors contribute to these overdoses. Dealers don't exactly have a good way of figuring out how much fentanyl to add until a customer or two overdoses and they know where the limit is.

Addicts will take their usual dose of heroin without realizing that the "usual" dose contains fentanyl because their dealer didn't tell them. The added fentanyl overwhelms their system and they die as a result.

Essentially, the drug is so strong that both addicts and dealers are often guessing at what amount is safe to take, and that's assuming that both know the drug is in what they're about to use. Dealers don't always tell their clients what they use to cut their product.

If you're addicted to drugs, now is really good time to try to get help, before you trust the wrong dealer for your drugs. If you're dealing drugs, this is also a really good time to get out of the business, before you get arrested.

As the public attention to this crisis has grown, authorities are trying to encourage the addicted to get into treatment programs. "Drug courts" have even been set up to help steer addicts away from jail and into rehab programs. However, they're also going after dealers who cause addicts to overdose in a big way.

Simply bringing illicit fentanyl into Maryland in quantities of 4 grams or larger could result in a felony conviction that carries up to 25 years in prison and possibly a fine of as much as $50,000.

If you happen to deal to someone that takes too much of the drug, even if you didn't cause the overdose yourself, the prosecutor can opt to bring charges of manslaughter or murder against you. Several Maryland prosecutors have already gone that route and more are likely to follow as political and legal pressure increases.

Drug addiction and drug crimes are serious issues. Anyone accused of any type of drug crime, whether possession or trafficking, should seek legal help as soon as possible.

Source: maryland.gov, "Article - Criminal Law - §5–614," accessed Jan. 23, 2018

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