Thursday, June 22, 2023

Deadly Fentanyl: Agencies Sound the Alarm on Rising Threats

In Colorado, an alarming surge of potent and lethal substances is being seized at an unprecedented rate. Fentanyl, in various forms such as pills, powders, and even mixed with Xylazine, is causing a significant increase in drug poisonings and overdoses across the state.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Attorney's Office for Colorado, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Colorado State Patrol, and the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) are coming together to raise public awareness about these dangers. Their aim is to ensure that individuals understand the risks associated with these substances and can help spread the life-saving message: One Pill Can Kill.

Fentanyl remains the primary cause of drug-related deaths in Colorado, with a staggering 70% increase statewide in 2021. This highly addictive synthetic opioid is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, equivalent to the tip of a pencil, can be a potentially lethal dose. Disturbingly, the DEA has reported a significant rise in the circulation of potentially fatal pills within our communities.

Fentanyl not only masquerades as other medications like Oxycodone but can also be mistaken for heroin or cocaine in powder form. It has even been discovered in Colorado in the form of a nasal spray. There is growing concern over multi-colored fentanyl pills, often designed with popular logos like Tesla and TikTok, and the infamous Versace "designer pill" shaped like Medusa. These tactics are intended to attract a younger customer base, heightening the risk to vulnerable individuals.

Mexican cartels are primarily responsible for the influx of fentanyl in Colorado. To penetrate the market, these cartels adulterate other illicit substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine with fentanyl. However, a new concern arises as fentanyl is now being mixed with Xylazine. While Xylazine is a non-opiate sedative and muscle relaxant exclusively authorized for veterinary use in the United States, it has been linked to overdose deaths nationwide. In 2022, approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained Xylazine. As of 2023, an increasing number of fentanyl pills analyzed by the CBI contain this dangerous combination. Since Xylazine is not an opioid, Naloxone, a drug commonly used to reverse opioid overdoses, may not effectively counteract its effects. This development makes the already-deadly fentanyl even more lethal.

DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge David Olesky emphasized, "Fentanyl is the most urgent drug threat facing our communities, and the cartels pose one of our greatest security threats. The DEA Rocky Mountain Division has already removed nearly one million deadly doses of fentanyl pills from our communities this year, and we show no signs of slowing down. We are committed to holding the cartels accountable for the devastating impact they have had on our communities. We deeply appreciate the collaboration of our local, state, and federal partners in this crucial mission."

Special Agent in Charge Mark Michalek of the FBI Denver stressed the need to combat fentanyl-related deaths, stating, "Fentanyl in all its forms and variations is killing our children, families, and neighbors. Disrupting drug trafficking organizations remains a top priority for FBI Denver. We will use every available tool to pursue those responsible and raise awareness to halt fentanyl-related deaths and the suffering it brings to communities."

U.S. Attorney for Colorado Cole Finegan warned, "Fentanyl is deadly, and we are witnessing new combinations of drugs mixed with fentanyl that make it even more dangerous. Unless a drug comes from a licensed pharmacist, don't take it—your life depends on it."

Keith Weis, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain HIDTA, expressed deep concern over the escalating supply of deadly fentanyl at historically low prices, fueling the illicit drug trade in Colorado communities. Weis stated, "Seizure amounts are rapidly approaching last year's figures. In fact, our Colorado State Troopers have recently witnessed a resurgence of fentanyl and other illicit narcotics on our roadways. These dangerous shipments are destined for our communities in Colorado. The cartels and drug traffickers haven't weakened their grip on those who are addicted or experimenting with narcotics. Likewise, we remain committed to intercepting every trafficker and preventing every load from reaching its destination."

The FBI is closely monitoring the emergence of N-Pyrrolidino Etonitazene, commonly known as Pyro, a synthetic opioid detected in the metro Denver area.

In light of these alarming developments, the DEA, FBI, USAO, CBI, CSP, and HIDTA strongly urge individuals to use only prescription medications prescribed by a doctor and obtained from legitimate pharmacies within the United States. It is crucial to recognize that legitimate pharmaceutical medications cannot be legally purchased through social media platforms.

While local, state, and federal agencies continue their efforts to combat illegal drug trafficking in Colorado, they acknowledge the ongoing concerns of mental health and addiction within our communities. Recovery and prevention partners, along with community leaders, friends, and caregivers, are encouraged to join forces in spreading public awareness. Valuable information and free resources can be found at the One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign website: Together, we can make a difference in the fight against this deadly threat. #StopFentanyl #DrugSafety #CommunityAwareness

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