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Fentanyl is next big crisis facing drug agents and families of heroin addicts

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NEW YORK -- The rock icon, Prince, was found dead inside an elevator — at his Minnesota estate — after using it.

An aspiring model in Allentown, Pennsylvania lay dead in a bed — inside an old factory — after fatally overdosing on the stuff, which was mixed in with heroin.

We’re talking about a synthetic opioid called Fentanyl.

It’s produced in a lab, but it’s 50 times more potent than heroin — and kills much faster.

Doctors often prescribe it to terminal cancer patients, in the closing weeks of their lives, to reduce pain.

It’s also a lot cheaper than heroin, and that’s one of the reasons people who package millions of heroin doses every week, inside secret drug mills, use Fentanyl to cut it—and make the product more of a draw for customers.

“Fentanyl is a very, very powerful opioid,” observed Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, this week. “It can be manufactured synthetically, and so it’s cheaper for the cartels to push out.”

Most of the heroin coming into the Northeast, where New York is the hub for much of its distribution, is traveling here from Mexico.

This past week, as people were starting the July 4 getaway on Thursday afternoon, June 30, drug enforcement agents found a massive quantity of heroin doses inside a single-family Bronx home.

“It was a million packets, ready to hit the streets, ready for the users, just before the 4th of July,” Brennan said.

More than two million people in the United States are addicted to opioids like prescription painkillers—or heroin—so it’s no surprise to find a huge haul like the one the feds discovered in the Bronx, at 2115 Harrison Ave.

The million plus doses of heroin, often selling for $5 or $8 dollars a hit, were being packaged in the basement of the home, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Where are they going to hide?” Brennan asked rhetorically. “Places where good, hard-working people live and work. That’s where they’re going to hide.”

Police arrested eight men and a woman at the site and also took a child out of the home.

“This the biggest mill I’ve ever seen,” Brennan said. "I see a location that’s set up just to produce ‘user ready’ envelopes of heroin."

“It’s despicable and sad,” noted Jonathan St. Clair, a laborer who was painting gates on Harrison Avenue.

“Nobody seen anybody going in or out of the house,” said long-time resident, Cecile Paulus.

The bust was made as Congress engages in a battle over one billion dollars in funding that the White House is seeking to address the opioid crisis in this country.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a leading voice in the effort to educate physicians about the dangers of over-prescribing, pointed out that many doctors are writing scrips for painkillers—and sedatives—at the same time.

“Once you’re dependent on opioids,” Dr. Kolodny told PIX11. “Every time your blood level gets low, you’re feeling very anxious from the withdrawal symptoms. It’s very common for them (addicts) to wind up on a drug like Xanax. It is much more dangerous to combine an opioid with a sedative,” Dr. Kolodny said.

“Reaching for a pill for anxiety isn’t always a good choice.”