‘No community is safe’: Fentanyl a leading cause of death in 2022 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘No community is safe’: Fentanyl a leading cause of death in 2022

Ashleigh Goodwin / agoodwin@tahoedaiytribune.com
Law enforcement presence at Kahle and U.S. Highway 50 on Thursday, Oct. 30.
Ashleigh Goodwin/Tahoe Daily Tribune

STATELINE, Nev. — Near the end of October, five law enforcement officers were exposed to fentanyl during the conclusion of a five-month-long investigation outside of the Douglas County Jail. 

During the investigation, approximately 829.1 grams of fentanyl, 1,722.8 grams of methamphetamine, and 59.4 grams of heroin were successfully taken off the streets. In connection to the investigation, Regina Rojas, a 35-year-old female from Rancho Cordova, California and Jessica Thomas, 32, of Sacramento, were arrested on felony drug charges. 

At the time of the final sale and subsequent bust, officers were exposed to an unknown amount of the lethal drug causing officers to exhibit overdose symptoms.

Ron Elges, DCSO undersheriff, said the exposure occurred during evidence collection.

The exposed officers were quickly surrounded by a sea of red and blue lights. A wave of lights and sirens from multiple agencies sped to the scene to provide Naloxone, which rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.

Often a fentanyl overdose requires several doses and several hours of medical attention. Thankfully, all officers exposed were assisted on scene, transported, treated and released from Barton Memorial Hospital in the early hours the following morning.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is a synthetic drug that is up to 100 times more powerful than heroin and morphine. It has become widely available and is known to be inexpensive. It is also, devastatingly, highly addictive.  

Medically, fentanyl is used in severe chronic pain and for treatment of pain in cancer patients and can be dosed in a variety of routes of administration including nasal spray, lozenges, pills and transdermal patches. 

On the black market it has become arguably more deadly than the other leading causes of death. A U.S Congressman Greg Murphy, M.D. published an opinion piece in The Daily Advance where he addresses the fentanyl crisis in America. Murphy said the crisis is “resulting in almost twice as many deaths in the 18-45 age range as COVID-19 (21,335), cancer (17,114), car accidents (22,442), and suicide (21,678) respectively.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August said it has become the leading cause of death among adults aged 18-45.

It is so pervasive that the DEA recognized May 10, 2022, as the inaugural National Fentanyl Awareness day. Their hope is to increase awareness and decrease the demand for fentanyl by educating the nation.

According to a press release, drug traffickers have been found to be mixing fentanyl with other illicit drugs — in powder and pill form — to drive addiction and create repeat customers. Many people who are overdosing and dying don’t even know that they are taking fentanyl. 

“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison. We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose deaths and poisonings from claiming scores of American lives every day.”

Nevada State Opioid Response has a website that hosts online resources for finding and procuring fentanyl testing strips, overdose reversal medication, and other resources regarding the epidemic. Between Feb. 8, 2018 and March 30, 2022, NSOR reportedly delivered 29,638 Naloxone kits to the community and 8,044 kits to first responders. There have been 1,695 reported reversals using naloxone.

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