Guayaquil, Ecuador, Sep 19 (EFE).- Fentanyl, the powerful and cheap synthetic drug with opiates, widespread in countries such as the United States, has now put Guayaquil, Ecuador, on alert, as it is apparently appearing mixed with other dangerous drug cocktails.
The arrival of four drug users with severe body aches and bulging, disoriented eyes that did not respond to treatment at a Guayaquil hospital, alerted the city’s health authorities to possible fentanyl use.
Without tests to detect the presence of this drug, the cases remain as suspicious.
The patients were consumers of “H”, a dangerous mixture of heroin with cement waste, rat poison and other substances, widely used in Guayaquil due to its low cost (50 cents on the dollar) and high addictive potential, explained to EFE the municipal health director, Juan Carlos González,
In 2016, the use of “H” triggered interventions in at least four neighborhoods that were overwhelmed by micro-trafficking.
Seven years later, the drug is still entrenched in the city, accompanied by more and more drug mixtures, which specialists fear may now include fentanyl, a drug 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine.
“Treatment becomes much more difficult because the patient has taken already several drugs. Before, a hospital stay was 10 or 12 days and they left detoxified, now it takes us 20 days or more because of the mixture,” explains González.
The health department is preparing for the arrival of more cases and is in the process of acquiring tests to detect fentanyl and naloxone, which is used to prevent cardiorespiratory arrest in cases of overdose.
The municipality’s alarm did not reach the ears of the Police’s Anti-Drug Directorate, which assures that it doesn’t know about these cases and that they have not detected fentanyl in powder or pills, although they have found its liquid version.
“In operations we have found vial-type fentanyl, which is a drug that is legally prescribed, but that people who have access offer it on social media as leftovers,” said to EFE General Pablo Ramírez, director of the National Anti-Drug Police.
In total, the police have seized 128 vials in three operations since August 2022.
“Coordinations have been generated with the United States and other countries to receive training in this area and we have the alert from Colombia, which already has action plans and has identified the substance in some cities,” says Ramírez.
The anti-drug director assures that fentanyl in vials does not have the same effect as the illegal substance. “It just causes numbness,” he adds.
He admits that the lack of a drug observatory in Ecuador prevents them from determining the internal demand, since the latest figures date back to 2016.
The Agency for Health Regulation, Control and Surveillance (Arcsa) has collected six warnings of fentanyl sales on social networks, but only in blisters and patches.
In August, it carried out a control operation in the center of Guayaquil, without results.
NEW DRUGS AND YOUNGER AGE
Dr. Rómulo Bermeo, an addiction specialist and member of the Guayas College of Physicians, has not treated people with fentanyl poisoning or withdrawal syndrome, but he has seen the use of other drugs and analgesics such as tramadol, tapentadol and ketorolac, which are used to relieve severe pain.
“A drug called ‘Tusi’ or pink cocaine has appeared, which contains a horse tranquilizer (ketamyne). We also see with concern the use of ayahuasca, of which we have had seven cases this year; a hallucinogen called San Pedro, and the use of threads of banana peel, a little known drug, but it is like marijuana,” he told EFE.
In Guayaquil, the drug “plo plo” is also used, a mixture of cocaine with herbicides and other chemicals, but Bermeo assures that “‘crispy’ (marijuana with ‘H’) will replace the ‘H'” in a short time.
It is not only the use of more drugs that worries doctors, as González warns of a change in the age at which consumption begins. “It used to be from the age of 17, now it is from the age of 12 or 11. This is a very alarming fact,” he says.
Both agree that the government must focus more on prevention and mass socialization of the consequences of consumption.