Public Service Campaign Warns of Deadly Fentanyl’s Presence in New York City’s Illicit Drug Market

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Public Service Campaign Warns of Deadly Fentanyl’s Presence in New York City’s Illicit Drug Market

Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, announced today the start of a public service and prevention campaign highlighting the increased presence of fentanyl in New York City’s illicit drug market, and alerting the public to the heightened risk of overdose death.

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is approximately 50 times stronger than heroin and is driving a historic spike in overdose deaths in New York City. Last year, drug-related fatalities in the city reached an all-time high of 1,374 deaths, representing a 46% increase over overdose deaths in 2015, according to data compiled by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Fentanyl was a factor in 44% of the deaths. Every seven hours a New Yorker dies of a drug overdose.

Black market fentanyl is most commonly mixed into heroin. It is also sold in a pure form, combined with other narcotics such as cocaine, or pressed into counterfeit pills made to have the same appearance as oxycodone and Xanax. Users often do not know that they are taking fentanyl. A dose the size of a few grains of sand and weighing just two milligrams can be lethal. Even those who have developed a tolerance for opioid drugs are at greater risk of death if exposed to fentanyl.

The PSA released today by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) consists of a video in both English and Spanish and an informational website, which can be viewed at FENTANYLKILLS.NYC. Both videos and the website will be aired on social media and local television stations beginning this morning.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “We have witnessed a surge of fentanyl brought into the New York area by international narcotics traffickers. We have also found it sold as heroin and cocaine by street dealers and pressed into pills purporting to be anxiety medication and generic oxycodone. I believe it is critically important to try to reach all New Yorkers to inform them of the lethal threat presented by fentanyl. Tragically, drug overdose took more lives in New York City than ever before in 2016. Fentanyl was a contributing factor in nearly half of those deaths. It is our responsibility not only to reduce the supply of illicit fentanyl, but to educate and prevent overdose death in our city. We want all New Yorkers to know that a tiny amount of fentanyl will kill, and this deadly substance is widely present in illegal drugs sold on the street.”

Originally developed as a pharmaceutical painkiller in the 1960s, medical grade fentanyl has long been used as a surgical anesthetic and in palliative care. However, over the past several years, non-pharmaceutical black market fentanyl produced in China and Mexico has flooded the United States. Because it is about one-tenth the cost of heroin on the wholesale market, drug traffickers use fentanyl as an adulterant for other narcotics to boost potency and profits.

In recent months, SNP and its law enforcement partners have seized increasingly larger shipments of fentanyl intended for distribution in New York City and the greater metropolitan area. These investigations target large-scale narcotics importation and packaging operations.

At the packaging level, SNP investigations reveal that members of drug trafficking rings who are tasked with mixing fentanyl into doses of narcotics take safety precautions when handling fentanyl. However, customers are often not aware of what is mixed into the drug they are buying, leaving users at grave risk of overdose. This unfortunate reality is the theme of the PSA, which features a drug seller ensuring his protection from the dangers of fentanyl through the use of a mask while leaving unsuspecting drug users exposed to its potentially deadly effects.

To view the PSA, visit FENTANYLKILLS.NYC. Media requesting a high resolution version can contact the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Public Information Unit at (212) 815-0525 or

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Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office
Kati Cornell
(212) 815-0525