In many western states, heroin remains prevalent and readily available to those who use it, but in New York City and other areas along the eastern seaboard, its presence seems to be fading. Nevertheless, it seems that heroin’s decline is more attributable to the rise of fentanyl, another more potent and more accessible drug, taking its place as the drug of choice for distributors than any public health efforts to stem the use of heroin.

Fentanyl is easier to get ahold of than heroin by creating it in clandestine labs or importing it in from China, rather than having to wait for the poppy harvest in Mexico before production can take place. Acquisition of fentanyl requires less labor and yields far more doses. Since fentanyl can be 50 times more potent than heroin, users of the latter who switch to the former are at a greater risk for overdose. Overdose deaths related to heroin are decreasing along the eastern seaboard even as fentanyl overdose deaths are rising.

However, it is unclear whether that is due to decreased heroin use or better methods in place of treating overdoses that do occur, such as increased availability and administration of naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of a narcotic overdose. Officials with Customs and Border Protection report seizing 921 pounds of fentanyl and 1,585 pounds of heroin at the Mexico border between January and April of this year. Nevertheless, testing of drug samples in New York City over a comparable time period reveals that only half were positive for heroin, which represents a decline from 2018. 

Trafficking and dealing in narcotics, whether heroin, fentanyl or otherwise, can carry significant legal consequences for those convicted of these crimes in court. Therefore, it may be a good idea for those who face such charges to contact a defense attorney.