On Saturday night, September 25, the LAPD sent officers to the $16 million Brentwood home of Richard Lovett, a parent and president of the CAA, to accommodate a large party of members. high school students from the city’s private scene. The police didn’t just disperse the gathering at the house – near the villa was used as an exterior for Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – but reacted to two drug overdoses, one of which The Hollywood Reporter has been known to result from accidental ingestion of the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl. Both minors survived.
Lovett declined to comment on the previously unreported incident, which took place after a deadly house party in Venice two weeks earlier, when three comedians and television writers – Fuquan Johnson, Natalie Williamson and Ricky Angeli – died after taking cocaine laced with fentanyl. A fourth friend, comedian Kate Quigley, was hospitalized and released.
The day before Lovett’s home overdose, the New York Chief Medical Officer confirmed that actor Michael K. Williams – best known as Omar Little on Wire – died after an overdose of a combination of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl earlier that month. And it was recently revealed that fentanyl may have played a role in the 2018 overdose death in rapper Mac Miller’s Studio City; On November 10, a drug dealer from West LA pleaded guilty to selling 26-year-old counterfeit oxycodone pills containing the substance.
These famous tragedies were the gateway to an opioid epidemic that the National Center for Health Statistics announced in November that claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people in the US during the 12 months ending in April – making overshadows both car accidents and gun deaths. The number has more than doubled since 2015. Fentanyl has fueled this increase, especially its stealthy addition to other illicitly manufactured drugs.
In Hollywood, where cocaine use has long been the supportive choice of parties, to the point of caricature, fentanyl’s entry into the illegal market has left the entertainment community in a quandary. dangerous – what was once simply the risky business of indulgence can now be much more than a deadly gamble.
“If you have no tolerance, 2 milligrams of fentanyl can kill you,” explains Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. More Timothy Sarquis, co-director of Killer High, a Hulu documentary released in September about the dangers of fentanyl, especially for young people: “It’s just a little bit, but because their bodies aren’t used to it, it makes them sick. overdose quickly”.
LA County Medical Examiner says CHEAP that it had 420 fentanyl-related deaths in 2019, rising to more than 1,000 in 2020. “We’re still not done with 2021, but I see quite a few trends that will exceed what they are. I saw in 2020,” said Dr. Ruby Javed, head of the coroner’s forensic science lab, remarking that the death rate for fentanyl in the county is currently higher than the fatality rate for heroin. and meth.
LA philanthropist and MS founder Nancy Davis, who started a new nonprofit, Cure Addiction Now, say, “It’s all in all,” say. Her son Jason, who had long struggled with sobriety, was found to have small amounts of fentanyl in his body when he died in February 2020 from a pulmonary embolism. Davis continued: “People often don’t know they’re taking it. “If you are addicted to it, it is very difficult to get rid of it. When you hear the word ‘heroin’ you think it sucks. Magnify that to 50. It seeps into your system very quickly. “
Experts say the mixing of fentanyl with other substances is accidental as well as intentional. Contamination of black market drug supplies can be caused by negligence during production and transportation. But there is also a business motive among traffickers. Some simply cut off other drugs with the relatively inexpensive fentanyl. Others want to entice new addicts, such as with new speedballs, where cocaine acts as an addictive drug and fentanyl replaces heroin as an addictive drug. “Everybody is making the perfect high,” explains Bill Bodner, DEA field director in Los Angeles. “Use one against the negative attributes of the other. You can enjoy fentanyl and stay awake [because of the cocaine]; otherwise you will oversleep. Or, for people who enjoy cocaine, they don’t grind their teeth.” Fentanyl increases dopamine levels and can induce euphoria and relaxation.
Local law enforcement first came across pure fentanyl half a decade ago, when its street price was as high as $200-300 per gram. (It’s $100-$150 per gram now, while cocaine currently sells for $20-$80 per gram.) “It’s not mixed with other drugs and the user knows what they have,” James Miller, LAPD Hollywood Division drug detective, who started seeing. mixed cocaine in recent years. “Nowadays, ordinary users don’t expect it to be so powerful. They are more likely to succumb.”
Fentanyl precursors are manufactured in China and India. After that, synthetic drugs were produced in secret Mexican laboratories. The country’s cartel, which is inherently violent due to its control of the land, is increasingly turning its attention to fentanyl in part because of its lack of need to secure territory for crops.
Bodner explains that LA is a “transit hub,” or transit station, for drugs including fentanyl to cross the southwestern border of the United States. At first, fentanyl largely bypassed Los Angeles because local opioid addicts stuck with their favorite drug (“This is a big city of heroin tar,” says Bodner), and Demand is much greater on the East Coast, where Oxycontin prescriptions are available. disabled. In addition to cocaine, fentanyl has now entered the counterfeit tablet market, appearing primarily in Oxycodone or Roxycodone (known as Roxies), but also MDMA as well as ersatz Percocet, Xanax and Adderall.
Another factor contributing to the fentanyl crisis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Medical Association, is the cause of new and increased stimulant abuse and use. Ryan Hampton, author of The American fix: Inside the opioid addiction crisis and how to end it.
In an Instagram post on February 7, 2021, Dr Laura Berman, relationship therapist and OWN TV presenter, revealed that her 16-year-old son overdosed in his room sleeping while “sheltering at home” after buying fake pills from an agent on Snapchat. (She believed they were Xanax or Percocet and was, at the time, awaiting the results of a toxicology study.) “The trial went awry,” she wrote. “He got drugs to the house.” (Berman did not respond to a request for further comment.)
One solution to the crisis is to have more fentanyl test strips available to try to detect the presence of the drug in other substances. However, they are not always reliable, especially since street products end up being a variable, chameleon-like competitor in their chemical structure. The test strips themselves could also contribute to the problem, providing a way for fentanyl addicts to find the drug. “I suspect that some [the rise] It’s also relevant that people are now addicted to fentanyl and just using more of it, said Dr. Gary Tsai, director of substance abuse prevention and control at the LA County Department of Public Health. “We’ve actually heard from some of our suppliers that individuals are using fentanyl test strips not to avoid fentanyl but actually to look for fentanyl.”
Despite the limitations of the strips – which, like clean needle programs, are part of a controversial method known as harm reduction – the situation has become so dire that the Minister of Health and Epidemiology US Human Resources Service Xavier Becerra signaled the Biden administration would work to make them more accessible. “We are willing to go where our opinions and inclinations do not allow us to go.” [before]”, he told NPR on October 27, adding: “Literally, we’re trying to give users a lifeline. “
Such was the case with USC, where a new nonprofit, Trojan Awareness Combating Overdose, distributed 1,000 test strips to partygoers in September alone. Over the past five years, several students have died. for an overdose caused by taking Xanax laced with fentanyl or cocaine. (According to USC Annenberg Media, during the fall 2019 semester, fentanyl claimed 3 out of 9 student deaths.) Based on test strip tracking data from September, “there was at least one dozens of positive cases [for fentanyl] at the USC campus,” said 2021 graduate Madeline Hilliard, who leads the organization. (Users can scan QR codes to upload results anonymously.)
“The rise of fentanyl has definitely had an effect on nightlife culture,” said China Morbosa, a musician who has worked in LA’s bar industry for the past decade. “People are stressed when they use drugs. Basically, if you don’t have your money hoarded before 2020, don’t gamble with it.”
Do you know more about the influence of fentanyl on the entertainment industry? Please contact The Hollywood Reporter via its confidential advice.