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Law enforcement and medics seeing spike in fentanyl use and overdoses

Oct 14, 2022, 5:08 PM | Updated: 5:33 pm

HOLLADAY, Utah — Law enforcement officers and doctors in Salt Lake County are warning the community about an alarming spike in fentanyl overdoses. The incredibly addictive drug is more lethal than ever before, coming from drug cartels in Mexico.

Police have already seized more than a half million fake fentanyl pills in Utah this year, twice as many as last year. This month, they seized “rainbow fentanyl” in powder form, which was already a national problem.

“It only takes a small amount of fentanyl to become a lethal dose,” Lt. Sam Wolf, Salt Lake County DEA Task Force Leader said.

Rosie Rivera speaks to a gathering of people at Holladay Fire Station. (KSL TV) Chris Lovell a recovering opioid addict.  He overdosed on fentanyl several times before spending two years in jail and going into recovery. He now wants to help other addicts get clean.

Drug Enforcement Agency lab tests show that four out of 10 pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. Unified Fire paramedics have treated nearly 250 fentanyl overdose patients in the last month alone.

“Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin, and 100 times more potent than morphine,” Wolf said in a press conference at a fire station in Holladay.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid added to fake pharmaceutical pills like OxyContin and Xanax, which are hard to distinguish from the real pills. Dealers keep changing the dangerous drug to make it more enticing.

“We want to make sure that individuals who are using these types of pills understand they could be laced with fentanyl,” said Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera.

They believe rainbow fentanyl is meant to target younger users.

“Everybody started dropping like flies once they started pressing it into the little tablets,” said Chris Lovell, a recovering addict.

He was given prescription painkillers for a medical condition 15 years ago, and got hooked. He used heroin until fentanyl arrived around six or seven years ago.

“Dealers started to lace the heroin with fentanyl just so they could have the strongest dope, because whoever has the strongest dope has the most customers,” Lovell said.

When he first bought fentanyl and used it, It was called China White.

“That night, me and three of my friends all overdosed,” he said.

Naloxone, a drug which reverses an opioid overdose, saved his life. He went to jail for two years, and now wants to help others in recovery.

Lovell said addicts, in search of a more potent drug, drive the demand.

“Once you start using fentanyl, heroin doesn’t do the same. So, you almost have to look for it, and you become addicted to that because heroin just doesn’t do the same thing for you anymore.”

That’s why the sheriff said it’s going to take a lot prevention, enforcement, and treatment to turn this opioid epidemic around.

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Law enforcement and medics seeing spike in fentanyl use and overdoses