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Fentanyl – the deadly drug is impacting Iowans and it’s in Webster County

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, drug overdose deaths In Iowa have climbed 34 percent between 2019 and 2021.

Among Iowans age 25 and younger, overdose deaths surged by 120 percent.

Tragically, 470 lives were stolen by drug overdose in Iowa last year. Drug overdose deaths, with fentanyl playing a leading role, is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45.

More Iowans are dying of fentanyl-related overdoses than ever before, Iowa health and public safety officials said, which is why the state launched a campaign encouraging Iowans to avoid counterfeit pills.

In the first half of 2022, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation had already identified four times more fentanyl pills disguised as prescription drugs than in 2021. Counterfeit prescription pills are produced to look almost identical to the real thing. In many cases, people who die from fentanyl did not even know they were taking the drug. The person did not intend to harm themselves or intend to die.

The danger is real

Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country. It is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially deadly dose. According to the CDC, 107,622 Americans died of drug poisoning in 2021, with 66 percent of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Laboratory has found that, of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022, six out of 10 now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. This is an increase from DEA’s previous announcement in 2021 that four out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills were found to contain a potentially lethal dose.

Everyone needs to know the danger involved in using fake prescription pills that are being trafficked in communities across the country. No one – no matter the age – should take a pill that wasn’t prescribed directly to them, and should never take a pill from a friend or one bought on social media. Just one pill is dangerous and one pill can kill.

Last year, the DEA issued a Public Safety Alert on the widespread drug trafficking of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills in American communities. The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel in Mexico, using chemicals largely sourced from China, are primarily responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in communities across the United States. These pills are produced to look identical to real prescription medications, including oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and alprazolam (Xanax); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall), and they are often deadly. Fake prescription pills are widely accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms – making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including teens and young adults. These counterfeit pills have been seized by DEA in every U.S. state, and in unprecedented quantities.

In 2021, the DEA seized more than 20.4 million fake prescription pills. Earlier this year, the DEA conducted a nationwide operational surge to target the trafficking of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills and, in just over three months, seized 10.2 million fake pills in all 50 states. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) reported seizing seven tons of fentanyl at the border. Obviously, it is good federal agents made these seizures, but it’s only a fraction of what’s coming into the United States. Untold amounts of fentanyl are making it into local communities and homes of grieving Americans, including here in Iowa.

“The influx of fentanyl coming into Iowa is touching every corner of our state,” said Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens. “The volume of fentanyl being seized by law enforcement throughout Iowa is shocking even to the most veteran narcotics agents.”

Webster County Sheriff Luke Fleener concurs, stating: “The issue of fake prescription drugs is absolutely a problem here in Webster County and lives have been lost due to these drugs. Our investigators always locate these type of fake prescription pills at every narcotic search warrant they execute; that hasn’t always been the case until recently. These pills are tested by the Division of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab and most often are found to be a combination of methamphetamine and fentanyl, an extremely dangerous combination. Due to the increase in illegal drug abuse and addiction these type of fake prescription pills will continue to affect our communities by driving our crime rates, increasing acts of violence and accidental overdoses.”

For more information on the dangers of fentanyl or other dangers impacting the safety of family and friends, contact Jeanette Potter, coordinator, Safe Communities Coalition. Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way, 515-573-3178.

Jeanette Potter is the coordinator of the Safe Communities Coalition for Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way.

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