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Killer Drugs: The Human Cost

Buster Hatcher is a 72-year-old Native American who lives in South Carolina. Within the last three months, three members of his family have died from overdoses of drugs laced with a powerful synthetic analgesic produced from morphine.

It's a problem that is reaching epidemic proportions in many areas of the US.

Hatcher blames those deaths on carfentanil, a powerful derivative of fentanyl. It’s 10,000- times more potent than morphine and it’s not approved for use in humans in any capacity. It’s typically used in veterinary medicine to sedate large animals – like elephants.

For the past few years carfentanil has been used to cut heroin, and in some cases it’s killing its unsuspecting victims almost instantly. That's what happened to Hatcher's cousin, who was found dead with the needle still in his arm.

"It makes it so strong that people who use the standard dose of whatever they use that it kills them. And it kills them so quickly; almost as soon as they take it, they're done," he said.

"I think the thing that folks need to know is that this stuff...these people who are mixing this stuff, these so-called chemists that are putting this stuff together, they don't have a clue what they're doing. They're out there to make money. That's the only thing they're doing," Hatcher said. "And, they're killing people."

Hatcher spoke on the Lean to the Left podcast. You can listen to the complete interview here:

But carfentanil is not only being used to cut heroin, it's also being mixed with methamphetamines, and reports say it is hitting Black and Native American populations especially hard.

To follow up on the tragic case involving Buster Hatcher's family, we spoke with Dr. Bill O’Connor, who treats such patients. Dr. O’Connor is a family physician who works at the Little River Medical Center in South Carolina. That's a community health facility that serves everyone – including the homeless, migrant farm workers, and others with little or no financial resources.

He reveals that there currently are 140 people currently on Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid use disorder in his medical center alone.

“Opioid use disorder is pretty evil,” Dr. O’Connor says. “It gets to the point where it isn’t a personal choice. You are driven.”

In this episode of the Lean to the Left podcast, we learn more about that long-standing problem and how it’s affecting peoples’ lives. And, we also learn more about community health facilities, what they do, and the importance of both federal and state financial support.

Listen to the interview with Dr. O'Connor here:

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