inFocus: Fentanyl a growing threat

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As  the drug problem increases so is the amount of fentanyl that law enforcement officials are finding in the drugs they seize. In the Eastern Panhandle officers say although heroin is still the number one killer for addicts fentanyl may slowly be attributing to that.

“We know last year in Huntington there were approximately 26 overdoses and multiple deaths and that was just one part of broader effort involving carfentinal,” said West Virginia Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey.

Recently, officers are finding fentanyl in more batches of heroin.

“We have been saying that fentanyl has been laced or cut in heroin to increase the effects of the heroin,” said Captain Scott Dillon, commander of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations for the West Virginia State Police.

According to the national institute on drug abuse, fentanyl is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

What it does is bind to body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions.

“We have been saying that fentanyl is being laced or cut in heroin to increase the effects of the heroin,” said Dillon.

Often times people are shooting up heroin not knowing that it is laced with fentanyl, which officers say is why the drug is so dangerous.

That can lead to an overdose because of the strength of the opioid.

Officers with West Virginia state police attribute the rise in fentanyl to drug dealers trying to stretch their supply of heroin.

“They’ll cut the heroin to make more product than actually what they’ll get. Basically, they’ll double the size and make it more potent for the addict which also makes it more dangerous,” said Corporal Sam Smith with the Berkeley Springs Detachment of the West Virginia State Police.

According to the Dug Enforcement Administration, between 2005 and 2007 more than 1,000 U.S. Deaths were caused by fentanyl-heroin overdoses.

“Fentanyl and carfentanil are bigger problems and we’ll try to work to see what we can do to help address that,” said West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey.

Morrisey says that in the Mountain State there has also been an increase in carfentanil.

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin.

“We still have a problem across the board including pills, [methamphetamine], [and] a lot of the synthetic drugs. So we’re working across the board on these issues because we have to stop the senseless death,” said Morrisey.

Officials also say that whenever there is a rise in overdoses in Baltimore, there seems to be a correlation with overdoses in the Four-State as well.

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