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TUESDAY January 11, 2022: 'Fentanyl Rising : Deadly Results' from ZUMA Press photographer Roberto E. Rosales of the Albuquerque Journal: Esperanza Cordova isn't afraid of the blues. Then again, the 43-year-old isn't afraid of much. She's been using heroin since she was 15 and, once fentanyl showed up, overdosed ''plenty of times'' on a mix of the two. In the past year, she's seen more than a dozen people overdose and die. Not strangers, people she cared about. Too many to count. The recent surge in drug US overdose deaths: 100,306 dead from April 2020 to April 2021, marks the first time the toll topped six figures in a 12-month period, according to provisional data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Recent data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) points to one potential answer in illegally manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl has changed the streets of Albuquerque, and swept across New Mexico in a perfect storm with authorities are seizing record amounts of the drug, while fighting a spike in the violent crime that has come along with it. Health officials meanwhile, count the rising dead from a record number of overdoses as the drug takes center stage in the opioid crisis. Welcome to 'Fentanyl Rising : Deadly Results'
© Story of the Week #821: TUESDAY January 11, 2022: 'Fentanyl Rising : Deadly Results' from ZUMA Press photographer Roberto E. Rosales of the Albuquerque Journal: Esperanza Cordova isn't afraid of the blues. Then again, the 43-year-old isn't afraid of much. She's been using heroin since she was 15 and, once fentanyl showed up, overdosed ''plenty of times'' on a mix of the two. In the past year, she's seen more than a dozen people overdose and die. Not strangers, people she cared about. Too many to count. The recent surge in drug US overdose deaths: 100,306 dead from April 2020 to April 2021, marks the first time the toll topped six figures in a 12-month period, according to provisional data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Recent data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC points to one potential answer in illegally manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl has changed the streets of Albuquerque, and swept across New Mexico in a perfect storm with authorities are seizing record amounts of the drug, while fighting a spike in the violent crime that has come along with it. Health officials meanwhile, count the rising dead from a record number of overdoses as the drug takes center stage in the opioid crisis. Welcome to 'Fentanyl Rising : Deadly Results'
The overwhelming presence of Fentanyl throughout Albuquerque is taking a toll on a particular vulnerable community. A youngster playing with a paper mache mask while riding his bike after accompanying his mother Angela who is struggling to stay afloat with his dad after losing their jobs. His mother brought him along so he would not be alone in a nearby hotel room while she came to acquire essentials from the organization called 'Street Safe,' an all-volunteer nonprofit that strives to reduce the harmful consequences associated with life on the streets.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
Along the alleyways, corners and open lots of East Central, fentanyl has left its trace almost everywhere. Syringes have been replaced or, at the very least, joined by pen tubes and crinkled tin foil crisscrossed with long, black lines, tools used to smoke the pills.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
A man smoking Fentanyl on the corner of Wisconsin and Central Avenue SE in Albuquerque. Those who live on the streets say people are ''willing to sell their souls'' for the little blue pill.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
CHRISTINE BARBER, left, comforts a woman named ANGELA who is struggling to stay afloat with her kids and husband after losing their jobs. Tonight she brought her children along so they would not be alone in a nearby hotel room. Christine runs the organization called street safe, an all-volunteer nonprofit that follows a harm-reduction philosophy by striving to reduce the harmful consequences associated with life on the streets.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
CHRISTINE BARBER, center, who runs the organization called street safe, an all-volunteer nonprofit that follows a harm-reduction philosophy by striving to reduce the harmful consequences associated with life on the streets.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
ESPERANZA CORDOVA is a longtime drug addict who has taken fentanyl. After heroin dried up five months ago, Cordova switched to smoking fentanyl full-time. From the corner of Charleston and Chico, Cordova, who didn't have a car, said it would take her five minutes to score a $10 pill. That's $3 if you know someone. ''You can find it up here, you can find it Downtown, you can find it on the West Side, you just ask somebody, 'Eh, you got any blues?''' she said.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
A man on the corner of Wisconsin and Central SE chases smoke off a piece of tin foil as rush-hour traffic flies by. He takes a break when a woman holding a puppy walks up, pulls a roll of foil from his shopping cart and hands her a square, the exchange as nonchalant as a neighbor borrowing sugar.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
HEZEKIAH BELTRAN, 17, is spending time a the Serenity Mesa Recovery Center on the westside. Hezekiah was once addicted to Fentanyl. ''I never thought that I would be anything more than a drug addict... that's what I felt my life was going to be,'' he said.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
HEZEKIAH BELTRAN, 17, is spending time a the Serenity Mesa Recovery Center on the westside. Hezekiah was once addicted to Fentanyl. One day, a day like any other, he said he smoked a fentanyl pill and suddenly got dizzy. The last thing he thought is he was overdosing. Beltran said he woke up after the people around him, strangers who became friends over a shared vice, revived him with Narcan. It was just another day for the 17-year-old.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
ESPERANZA CORDOVA is a longtime drug addict who has taken fentanyl. On a busy Friday evening, Esperanza took advantage of the services offered by the organization called street safe, an all-volunteer nonprofit that follows a harm-reduction philosophy by striving to reduce the harmful consequences associated with life on the streets.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
JENNIFER BURKE, executive Director at Serenity Mesa Recovery Center in front of a mural depicting her son Cameron Weiss who died from an overdose. Burke, who runs the rehab center Serenity Mesa in Albuquerque, said in the past year fentanyl has ''turned everything upside down.'' Clients, ranging from 14 to 21 years old, went from an even split of heroin and meth to 80% fentanyl users.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
Angela who is struggling to stay afloat with her kids and husband after losing their jobs. Tonight she brought her kids along so they would not be alone in a nearby hotel room. On this Friday evening she came to the corner of Chico and Charleston SE to acquire essentials from the nonprofit organization called street safe.
© Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire
Robet E. Rosales

Robert E. Rosales is a staff photographer for the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico's largest newspaper where he concentrates on issues such as immigration and breaking news. Robert also teaches photojournalism at the University of New Mexico. Roberts imagery from the Albuquerque Journal is available through ZUMA Press.:821



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