If you thought heroin was the most intense opiate on the planet, think again. Compared to Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic pharmaceutical, mainlining plain ol' smack is like a drinking a cup of decaf. Now two Seattle men are in trouble with the feds for allegedly dealing the powerful drug.
When DEA agents raided Mustafa's apartment on the 100 block of 18th Avenue, near Yesler Terrace, on the kitchen table they found a bullet-proof vest and a rifle mounted on a tripod, pointed out the window toward the street. He also reportedly had "several hundred thousand dollars" in cash, small amounts of Percocet, human growth hormone, and marijuana. But, more importantly, Mustafa had allegedly stockpiled "at least 200 usable ounces of usable Fentanyl."
As court documents explain, the effects of Fentanyl are nearly identical to heroin, "with the exception that Fentanyl may be hundreds of times more potent." Commonly prescribed to numb the pain of severe arthritis and other crippling ailments, Fentanyl is usually administered via a patch (so that the medicine is absorbed through the skin), or in lollipop form. Mustafa, though, allegedly peddled pure, white Fentanyl powder.
Image Source The Fentanyl lollipop, sold under the brand name Actiq. The oral dose allows the drug to be absorbed more slowly into the blood stream than a pill or injection.
Although lesser-known than heroin, Fentanyl is prized by some junkies because of its staggering potency. Typically, doses of heroin are measured in milligram amounts. Fentanyl, meanwhile, has knockout power at microgram -- 1/1000th of a milligram -- levels. When used to cut heroin or cocaine, Fentanyl can be extremely lethal, as proved by a spate of more than 200 overdose deaths last year across the East Coast and Midwest.
Caleb Banta-Green, a UW professor who tracks drug overdose deaths in King County, says Fentanyl accounted for 10 of the Seattle area's 231 fatal ODs last year. In most cases, he says, Fentanyl was combined with other drugs. "I can understand, in theory, why people would want it," Banta-Green says. "But the issue with Fentanyl is the potency is so high, the margin for error is essentially non-existent."
Although Fentanyl is reportedly becoming more popular (check out Brendan Kiley's piece in The Stranger last year headlined "F is the New H"), experts say it's still relatively uncommon. Ron Jackson, executive director of Evergreen Treatment Services, a methadone program with 1,350 patients in Seattle and Olympia, says just six percent of their clients self-reported Fentanyl use in the last month, with about two-thirds of those saying they injected the drug.
Alexander Kosnicki and his facial hair in an undated Department of Corrections mugshot.
"Sometimes it hard to know whether it's people using [Fentanyl] patches or whether it's just some substance claiming to be Fentanyl when it's really not," Jackson says. "When you're buying drugs on the street you're not really sure what you're getting."
Customers of Mustafa and Kosnicki, however, got the real McCoy. When DEA agents searched Kosnicki's houseboat on the west side of Lake Union in April, they found 70 grams (about 2.5 ounces) of Fentanyl powder, along with $88,000 cash, two assault rifles, pistols, and a sawed-off shotgun.
Both Mustafa and Kosnicki are convicted felons (Kosnicki's rap sheet includes five previous convictions for cocaine dealing in King County), banned from possessing firearms. They each face a variety of weapons and drug charges, and lengthy prison sentences if convicted.