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Photos: The scourge of fentanyl is evident on the streets of Los Angeles

For far too many people hooked on the drug, the sleep that follows a fentanyl hit could be permanent.

The highly addictive and potentially lethal drug has become a scourge in the United States and is affecting the growing number of people living on the streets of Los Angeles.

About a third of the 2,000 homeless deaths between April 2020 and March 2021 were due to an overdose. While help is available, it is outweighed by the magnitude of the misery on the streets. Homeless addicts in Los Angeles can be seen lying on sidewalks or passed out in alleys. Others sell small doses and puffs of smoke to the desperate looking for their next high.

Fentanyl was developed to treat severe pain from conditions such as cancer. The use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is cheap to produce and often sold as is or mixed with other drugs, has skyrocketed. Because it is 50 times more powerful than heroin, even a small dose can be fatal.

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It has quickly become the deadliest drug in the country, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Two-thirds of the 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021 were attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The toll of drug victims extends well beyond the streets. Drug abuse can be a cause or a symptom of homelessness. Both can also intersect with mental illness.

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