As Walter White was to meth, so is the "Drug Wizard of Wichita" to Fentanyl

The potent drug Fentanyl is widely used in medicine as a painkiller, and in anesthesia for major surgery. The intensely concentrated opiate is also a recreational street drug, with a growing number of addicted users–some of whom consume it together with chemically related opiates such as heroin.

Fusion profiles George Marquardt, an eccentric gadgeteer in Wichita, KS who became a career clandestine chemist. How important was he? When the feds finally nabbed Marquardt, the country's first "Fentanyl epidemic" dried right up.

Snip from the Fusion interview:

Fentanyl is so deadly that it's nearly impossible to cut or create safely in a clandestine setting. But someone was doing just that: It appeared to investigators that an enterprising individual had cracked the prescription's recipe in an illegal lab and was now selling his secret to drug dealers and other "cooks."

They were right. Their man was a onetime science-fair champion and self-taught chemist in Wichita, Kansas, named George Marquardt.

In an exclusive interview with Fusion, Marquardt — now 69 and an ex-convict, barred by a court from touching laboratory equipment — discussed his skills and his trade.

"I am not a pharmacist," he said. "I am not an M.D. I'm a fellow that will manufacture a chemical compound if you have a sufficiently large quantity of money."

Marquardt explains to Fusion how wound up producing illegal drugs in the first place: he worked with a pal to produce heroin "using basic lab equipment and old chemistry manuals, some printed in German."

"I was perhaps about 14 or 15 years old at the time," he said.

"This is not, you know, as remarkable as you might think," he added. "If you look through these old laboratory manuals, this is just chemistry. Put one step ahead of the next. You work up your products. And I became skillful at feeding one reaction into the other."

The Walter White of Wichita [Fusion]