Law enforcement officers attend training on Fentanyl

Law enforcement officers with the Weiser Police Department and Washington County Sherriff’s Office recently attended a drug training event held at the Vendome in Weiser.
 The training, hosted by Southwest District Health, provided details about the illicit and, in tens of thousands of cases nationwide, lethal drug fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which has reportedly become the No. 1 cause of death among U.S. adults, ages 18 to 45.
 “Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, so this stuff is very, very strong,” said Claudia Coatney, who heads up Southwest District Health’s Drug Overdose Prevention Program. “What is sad is that we started an epidemic with prescription opioids … now we are seeing fentanyl.”
 The drug’s street form has found its way to Weiser, leaving law enforcement, in some cases, to deal with the aftermath of its effects.
 “Within about the last six months, we started seeing it,” said Weiser Police Lt. Troy Krahn. “Now that we are seeing it, we are seeing it regularly. It’s definitely here. It wasn’t long ago that we had three overdoses in one night. I think they all originated out of the same source. We performed life-saving measures on the one of them, but it was too late.”
 According to a Dec. 16, 2021 Fox News report, fentanyl caused more deaths in the 18 to 45 age category in 2020 than COVID-19, motor vehicle accidents, cancer, and suicide.
 “This is a national emergency,” said Families Against Fentanyl (FAF) founder, James Rauh, in a statement to Fox News. “America’s young adults – thousands of unsuspecting Americans – are being poisoned. It is widely known that illicit fentanyl is driving the massive spike in drug-related deaths. A new approach to this catastrophe is needed.”
 FAF told Fox News that fentanyl deaths for individuals ages 18 to 45 doubled from 32,754 fatalities to 64,178 in two years between April 2019 and April 2021.
 Rauh, who lost his son to an overdose, said he would like to see the drug classified as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, which would activate additional federal resources to root out international manufacturers and traffickers. 
  Fentanyl, which is highly concentrated and can be deadly even in small doses, flows into the U.S. primarily from sources in China and Mexico. The drug is often added to other illicit drugs like heroin, meth, and marijuana.
 “Our intel suggests a majority of it is coming out of Mexico,” Krahn said. “Apparently it’s pretty easy to make and I suspect the cartels in Mexico are making it.”
 Counterfeit pills often mimic legitimate opioid medications and have the same shape and texture, general color, and even the same markings. 
 Part of the overdose problem lies in its handling.
 “It’s a very concentrated drug and it needs to be metered out correctly and your typical street drug dealers, they don’t know how to do that,” Krahn said. “There are absolutely legitimate uses for fentanyl, but the addictive properties are extremely high. If it’s prescribed within a hospital, it’s pretty common for pharmacies to review it and give it the Ok before it’s actually distributed.”
 According to research by the Journal of the American Medical Association, teens aren’t using more illegal drugs, but they are dying from drug overdoses at twice the rate due to fentanyl. The research shows that drug use in 14- to 18-year-olds remained stable over the last decade but that overdose deaths more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, reaching 1,146 and about 80 percent were due to fentanyl.
 Krahn and Weiser Police Chief Carl Smith began looking at life-saving treatment options a couple years ago when the illegal market for fentanyl became more widely known across the U.S.
 Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, an FDA-approved prescription medicine that can block the effects of opioids, and that reverses an overdose. The medicine comes in a nasal spray-type container and first responders can administer it in the same way.
   It was one of the topics that was covered in last week’s training in Weiser. 
 “We have it and we are carrying it now,” Krahn said of the medicine. “It will be in our officers’ vehicles, and we are looking at putting it in a few other strategic places, probably the Vendome, maybe city hall, and putting it in the school offices.”
 Washington County Chief Deputy Brady Johnson, who invited Southwest District Health to Weiser for last week’s training, was not immediately available for comment.


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