Idaho State Police seized nearly 28,000 pills in 2021. Treatment nurse says the potent opioid’s effect is often unexpected and can be fatal.
BOISE, Idaho – As the Drug Enforcement Administration issues a nationwide public warning regarding the increase in pain relievers containing the opioid fentanyl, law enforcement agencies in Idaho are echoing the same concern .
“In my career in law enforcement, it is the most dangerous drug that we have seen,” said the Idaho State Police Sgt. Kurt Sproat.
The increase has been significant in Idaho over the past three years. According to PSI, soldiers seized 195 fentanyl pills in 2019. In 2020, PSI seized approximately 20,000 fentanyl pills. This year alone, according to the agency, they have already seized nearly 28,000 fentanyl tablets.
“I mean just over the last few weeks we’ve had a few arrests where we have hundreds of fentanyl pills that we’ve taken off the streets,” Sproat added.
Sproat has been with ISP for nine years. He said that a few years ago heroin use was on the rise and then fentanyl came along.
“People who become addicted to opioids, like heroin, they want this greater effect, and once you switch to fentanyl it could be a life or death situation while taking these pills,” Sproat said.
He said the problem with counterfeit pills is that they’re disguised as prescription drugs and new drug users don’t know they might be related. He adds that this is how overdoses occur.
Not only are law enforcement addressing the growing problem, drug treatment centers in Treasure Valley are speaking out as well.
“You just can’t take the risk of even taking it only once,” said Nycole Thomas RN, vice president of Northpoint Recovery.
Thomas said she was very concerned about counterfeit drugs containing fentanyl because these addictions are difficult to manage. The Meridian Treatment Center currently has a 22-bed facility and plans to upgrade to a 48-bed facility over the next year due to the demand for treatment.
“Fentanyl is a very difficult drug to detoxify, and we have seen that we have really had to adjust our detox protocols and adjust the way we treat these patients,” Thomas said.
Thomas mentions that there are a number of ways fentanyl enters Idaho, but from what she’s seen, the availability of counterfeit fentanyl-containing drugs online is a huge factor. She said the target age group was the 18-30 age group – college age students, new drug users, etc.
“We see a lot of patients who come in and report that they buy pills online and expect to have bought things like Adderall, Oxycodone or Xanax, when in fact it contains fentanyl, ”Thomas mentioned. “It’s something they weren’t expecting.”
While arresting the traffickers and seizing the pills can’t do much, experts have said raising awareness and knowledge are the best next steps to protect the most vulnerable and unsuspecting people.
“I’m worried about the kids, I’m worried about the high school kids who might be exposed to this drug that they might not necessarily know is fentanyl,” Sproat said.
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