It is just like,
just like heroin, yeah. But ten times stronger.
Yeah, it’s really strong. In the last six months, I must have lost a good
12-14 friends on fentanyl. It’s too dangerous. Everybody
seems to be going over on it. I overdosed. I said, “Look,
I’m never doing that again”. The next day, I was,
I was bang right back at it, do you know what I mean? Fentanyl is taking the opioid
epidemic to a new level of urgency. America is in the midst of declaring
a state of national emergency in response to their
current opioid crisis. One of the key drivers of this
is a powerful synthetic painkiller called fentanyl. The substance has now been linked to a recent spike
in overdoses on UK soil. The majority of these cases
have been found in Yorkshire and the Humber. We travelled to Hull to meet those
affected by this lethal drug. Say on a scale of one to ten, heroin’s a 2
and fentanyl’s like an 11. It’s like… It’s like going
from being slapped with a pillow to hit by a train,
do you know what I mean? I reckon… I reckon we’re just a small… ..percentage of what… what it actually is. It will be here, there
and everywhere. It won’t just be a small amount
here and now, and then it’s gone. My dad passed away.
My mam passed away. My nan and grandad, like,
they left me. They moved to Scarborough, so… I’ve been on my own since. Why do you think they left? I don’t know, to be honest.
I was only a kid. They didn’t really do much wrong. When you’re a kid and you’ve
got no rules, a lot of things what you shouldn’t
do or shouldn’t have done, you start doing,
do you know what I mean? And… I don’t know.
It just gets worse from there. The National Crime Agency says that
60 people have died in the UK in the past eight months after taking the
painkilling drug fentanyl. It’s 50 times more potent
than heroin and is the drug that was linked to
the death of the rock star Prince. About six months ago, right,
I actually come across it, not looking for it and not
realising, but I tried it, and it-it blew my
head off, to be fair. Like I said, it’s just
so strong, honestly. It’s really, really strong. Quite recently, a lot of people
think it’s gone for good and think they
can’t find it but it’s, like… I know where it’s coming from.
I know where it is. I know how to get it.
Not everyone does any more. But, yeah, yeah, it’s still there. Is it still out on the street? Yeah, definitely.
It’s still on the street. It’s definitely out there, yeah.
Definitely still out there. Yeah, definitely. 100%. I’ve lost a lot of good mates
to it this year. Yeah, it’s not, it’s not good.
It’s dangerous. Seven or eight of my friends
are dead already. It’s dangerous. And so were people
worried when it first came in? And what were you excited about? Do you think the dealers worry
about killing people? Back in February, I became aware
of what I felt were an increased numbers of
potential drug-related deaths. It was probably the end of March, we started getting some of the
toxicology results coming back in, where these drugs,
which were new to me, were getting named
in the toxicology reports. Now, we’re probably looking at
about a third, very crudely, about a third from those reported have come back with fentanyl,
carfentanyl. Yeah. Yeah. It’s only Luke. Can I meet you for one of each? Does it look the same as heroin? Yeah, but slightly… Like, a different colour brown and it’s got a slight red tint
to it when you cook it up. That’s fentanyl on this foil. I used to smoke it, like him. Once you try it the other way,
then it don’t compare. It’s not the same. Smoking, it’s more… It creeps up on you more, I suppose. Like, it takes time to get your,
your buzz, whereas injecting, it’s instant, straightaway, so… It’s not that I’ve stopped caring,
but… I’ve given up…given up a bit. And I think to myself,
at the end of the day, like… if I weren’t here, if I did die,
then, I don’t know, just… I wouldn’t have to worry
about anything any more. Like, I am ashamed of what I do,
but, at the same time, I feel like I can’t stop. I won’t need any more for… ..say, 6-12 hours. So I won’t rattle, I’ll feel fine. Like, the main buzz,
I’d say, lasts about… 20 minutes, if you’re proper smashed
and you’re on, like, a big hit, to a couple of hours. Feeling…itchy, though. Just really itchy. Fentanyl is a CNS depressant. Essentially what happens is that you
get the respiratory depression, you get the sedation,
you get the drowsiness… and the next thing you know,
their colour will begin to change. They turn blue. The blood pressure
will begin to drop. The pulse will begin to drop. And they have difficulty
breathing on their own and managing their own
cardiovascular system. You get the people who, because
of their length of use, they’ve been using drugs
for so long, and have developed high tolerance
to whatever it is that they’re using regularly, they want that additional buzz
of something else. I still feel it, don’t get me wrong. But if that was heroin,
I would have got, like, a tiny amount of that feeling
and then, like, that would have been it,
do you know what I mean? So… I was an heroin addict and I went
to score a bag off somebody. They never told us
that fentanyl was in it. We took it. I walked round the corner
and I collapsed and my face hit the pavement. I nearly died. There is a cohort of vulnerable drug
users out there who, on a daily basis,
will find funds from somewhere, go and buy drugs, take drugs. And as we found recently,
people are literally dying, taking what they’ve been taking. Excuse me? Couldn’t ask you
a favour, could I? Erm, like, I’m homeless
on the street, yeah? I’m literally just trying to get
some change together for some food. I don’t suppose you could help me,
could you, please? Thank you. It’s been a bit rough this year. Erm, I’ve been staying
in a few doorways, but I’ve got myself
a sleeping bag now, so… I’m laughing. I just need to get
a couple of quid together so I can go get some fenny and that. Couldn’t ask you a favour, could I? I don’t… I’m homeless
on the street, yeah? I’m literally just trying to get
some change for something to eat. I don’t suppose…?
I ain’t got any money on me. Now we’re aware of what’s out there,
we are asking more questions and we are trying to work
with our intelligence team or to ask who’s bringing
these drugs in. When you look at routes
into any system now, when you look at, say,
the World Wide Web, when you look at where Hull is
placed, on the end of the A63, M62, it’s easy to come to. People have been going to areas of
Hull where they felt they will get, in their view,
the better quality drugs, referred to as “the strong stuff”
or “the better gear”. After a swift response
from the National Crime Agency that resulted in a number
of operations across the UK, the availability of fentanyl in Hull seemed to have dropped off
considerably. Yo! Yes, Stan.
Yes, Mac. In spite of this, Luke was still able to find a dealer
that could sell him the drug. You all right? I don’t know the original source,
no, but like we’ve said, there’s three main people, three
main people in Hull who are… who are doing it,
who are getting it. It’s like there’s a, it’s like
there’s a secret underworld going on, do you know what I mean?
People don’t, people don’t see it. Who I’m going to ring, they didn’t have it,
whereas they’ve got it now. Yo, easy, Johnny, Ryan,
can I meet you for one of each? Yeah, man, same place, yeah? Yeah, all right, I’ll be there
in two minutes. Cheers, my man. Boom! Sorted. Let’s have a look, then. How far along are you now?
Three months. Yeah? So you don’t know if
it’s a boy or a girl yet, do you? No. No. What do you want? Girl. Girl. I had a little girl. Did you? Yeah, yeah.
She’s cute, innit? Yeah? Yeah, man. Do you know what,
honestly, though, I’m proud of you and that. So next time you have the next scan
photo and it’s a boy, you’ll have to show me, won’t you?
Yeah, I will. Yeah, man. Here, give us a squeeze.
Anyway, I’m going to chip you. All right, see you later.
Look after yourself. My little girl ain’t
going to want to… want to have a dad who’s on gear and fentanyl and crack. It’s fucking, it’s not-not a life
for her, do you know what I mean? How can I set an example? How can I set a standard? How can I…
How can I be right for her? I can’t, you know what I mean?
I just… I just can’t be. What you saying, darling,
you all right? Yeah, you all right? Not too bad.
How are you? I’m not bad. I’ve just won the lottery, you know. Have you? Yeah.
Get some nice gear then? Get some nice gear.
You know it, girl. I’m at the track now. MAN ON PHONE: All right.
All right, safe, brother. Nice one. Get my shit now. Give me two minutes.
I’ll pop around this corner. I know quite a few addicts, yeah,
what inject and that, and really, every time
they’re injecting, really, they’re just wanting to die,
hoping that they go over. But don’t. So they’re out for
the next day, doing the same again. It just comatoses you,
throws you to the floor. And it could be six to eight hours,
if you are all right, to come back round. It’s ridiculous. £20. £20 for that. How long is that going to last? Well, it’s going to fuck me up
instantly, but… What are you doing there? Putting it under my tongue,
because obviously class As, if coppers stop me
and it’s under my tongue, I can swallow it straight away. So it’s gone. It’s a regular occurrence these
days, yeah. They seem to be bashing
the heroin with it, selling that a lot better
than what it has been selling. So, yeah, dangerous stuff. Some people don’t like it, like. Since it disappeared,
everyone was, like, “Oh, fucking… I don’t want it,
I don’t want it”, because they seen what it
was doing to people, but, like, I can’t lie. I love the shit. And I mean love it. This is one of
my good friends, Terry. We’d been aware of fentanyl, largely
because of what was happening in parts of Europe
and in North America. We first probably became
aware of that in this country in around late March. Towards the end of April this year, we issued our alert to make
the health care system aware of the situation,
and also drug treatment services. Yeah, I am fucking young, like. Do you know what I mean? I’m fucking, because there’s
not many people fucking… Well, people call me a bairn. There’s not many bairns who do it. Why do you think there aren’t many
bairns that do it? It’s one of them,
through fear I suppose. How long have you known Luke for,
then, Terry? And have you seen him change much? Yeah. Fucking hell. Bad sleep last night. Thank you for that, Terry. You’re all right mate,
get on with it. Do you feel better?
Yeah, much better, mate, thank you. Sit and have a smoke now. I’ll see you later on. Another day living the dream. Just off to the hostel, going to see
if I can get my room sorted. It’s like, running a bit late
and that, but… That’s what I mean, my priority
should be one thing, but your priorities go
out the window, do you know what I mean? I know there’s a lot of people
that are addicted to it now, where they would only buy
that with fentanyl in. And I look at them and I say,
“Well, I wouldn’t”. So basically they’ve got actually
addicted to the fentanyl. They’re not addicted to the heroin.
They are addicted to the fentanyl. There’s a good 10-12 people I know
that just want the fentanyl now. I don’t think I’ve heard about it
for over six weeks now. It seems to have dried up. That’s my experience. I don’t know whether they are
using and not telling us, or is it just that it’s longer
available for now. How come you’re late for the hostel? Because my habit’s got in the way. Are you worried about
it coming back? Obviously. That would be the trend. You get periods
when the batch comes in, people use them
and then it dries up. And then it comes back again. Don’t say it again. You needed to have been here earlier
to do the paperwork and everything. It’s only my…
I have to be here, though, because it’s like my thingy address,
my bail address. I have to be here. My name’s Luke, my name’s Luke. After six o’clock,
we don’t move people in. One of the concerns is also, like, how long your offending
history actually is. Because from what I can gather, your probation, like, is included
in on a fair amount of it. You need to come back tomorrow
any time after ten, speak to the manager, and then
we can go from there, all right? All right. What’s the verdict, Luke? Not so good. I’m banned from most of the hostels
because I have rent arrears, a lot of fighting, etc. It feels like I’m always
waiting for something. It’s like a full-time job,
having a habit. Because, like, you’ve got to get
the money for it, or you feel shit. Then you spend half your time
running around, trying to ring up. Then you spend half your time
running around to get it. Then the rest of your time you spend
trying to find somewhere to do it, especially when you’re homeless. After spending two weeks in Hull, it became clear that the current
batch of fentanyl had run out… ..but there were still fears
from the authorities and the people we talked to
on the street that the problem could
resurface at any time. I think we always need
to remain vigilant, and if it’s not fentanyl,
it could be something else. So we need to make sure
that treatment services, that the harm reduction
messages are right, and that we are ready to respond
if it comes back on a larger scale. Does it ever get easier doing this,
Luke? No. It doesn’t, ever. It’s just fucking… It’s just the same shit, different
day, you know what I mean?