A Horrified Parent’s Blatantly Alarmist Guide to Fentanyl | Vince Bzdek – Colorado Springs Gazette

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Police tape is stretched out Monday at an apartment building at 14480 E. 104th Ave. in Commerce City, where five people were found dead Sunday night. The five are believed to have died of suspected fentanyl overdoses.
Vince Bzdek

Police tape is stretched out Monday at an apartment building at 14480 E. 104th Ave. in Commerce City, where five people were found dead Sunday night. The five are believed to have died of suspected fentanyl overdoses.
Vince Bzdek
America’s decades-old casual drug habit has suddenly shifted into a new nightmare realm.
No longer are illicit drugs a recreational, renegade, college kind of thing to do. Now they could actually kill you in seconds.
Because drugs of all sorts are being laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl, dying of a drug overdose is no longer just a phenomenon of addicts or people with mental health issues. Folks who are not intending on abusing drugs but think they’re simply taking a Xanax, a party drug like cocaine or even Adderall are now dropping dead of overdoses.
That’s apparently what happened in Commerce City recently, when five people who thought they were doing cocaine at a party all wound up dead in what is being called the worst single case of mass fentanyl overdose in the country.
“This is the nightmare scenario,” 17th Judicial District Attorney, Brian Mason, told our reporter, Lindsey Toomer. “This is five people dying without realizing the drug they’re putting into their bodies.”
Our reporters have documented far too many heart-breaking cases in Colorado lately in which parents have lost children who had no idea they were taking a deadly drug. As a father of two college-age kids, these stories keep me awake at night worrying about their safety.
So after hearing from several of our reporters about the noxious deadliness of this new scourge, I’ve assembled a Horrified Dad’s Blatantly Alarmist Guide to the Dangers of Fentanyl. To wit:
Are the risks of my kids dying from fentanyl higher in Colorado?
Yes. The number of fentanyl fatalities in Colorado is rising faster than in every other state, except Alaska. In 2021, illegal fentanyl killed 709 people in Colorado — which is 645 more people than in 2015, according to CDC data from Families Against Fentanyl.
Why is this so bad in Colorado?
Colorado’s highways — I-25 and I-70 — are major transport corridors for fentanyl smuggled in from Mexico. Colorado had more drug seizures, per pound, from 2017 through 2021 than any other state in the country, a 403 percent increase, according to the Denver field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. And right now, possession of less than four grams of fentanyl in Colorado is only a misdemeanor, which many in law enforcement believe encourages dealers to come here. 
What should I tell my kids about the risks of fentanyl?
Tell them what DA Mason said: “No drug is safe” right now. Tell them fentanyl has been found mixed with cocaine, meth, heroin, oxycontin, Adderall, Xanax, and in some cases, even marijuana, so they should stay away from everything except their prescriptions.
Why would drug dealers sell something that can kill their clients?
David Olesky, acting special agent in charge of the DEA office in Denver, told our reporters that fentanyl is so cheap, available and powerful it increases the potency of the drugs they sell, making them more addictive, and that in turn increases their profit margins.
“The nature of how cheap it is,” Olesky told our reporter “and there is no care for human life by the traffickers when they are deciding what to put inside their package, their concoction, so to speak. They’re not concerned about the end user and their wellbeing.”
If a drug dealer knowingly sells someone a lethal dose of fentanyl, isn’t that attempted murder?
In Boulder County, the local drug task force is investigating four recent overdose deaths in hopes of filing criminal charges, possibly homicide, according to an Associated Press report.
Federal prosecutors can now levy a “distribution resulting in death” charge, but they must show that the fentanyl sold to the person was the sole cause of their death and that the dealer knew it was fentanyl.
Attorney General Phil Weiser said he supports a sentence enhancement or additional homicide charge for dealers in Colorado, but others worry that such charges would be further criminalizing drug use rather than focusing on public health efforts to solve the fentanyl problem. 
How deadly is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and heroin, according to Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen.
According to the DEA, 2 milligrams of fentanyl is generally considered a lethal dose for most people. One pound of fentanyl could kill as many people as have died to date in the U.S. from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the DEA.
Is China trying to purposefully kill Americans with fentanyl?
Good question. Currently, China is the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States, according to the DEA.
James Rauh, founder of Families Against Fentanyl, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit alleging that Chinese supplier Fujing Zheng and others shipped the fentanyl that killed Rauh’s son. Rauh wants the Chinese government also held accountable for not doing more to stop the trafficking.
How does fentanyl work?
Fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. Its effects include extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, tolerance, addiction, respiratory depression and arrest, unconsciousness, coma, and death, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
How do people use fentanyl?
When prescribed by a doctor, fentanyl can be given as a shot, a patch that is put on a person’s skin, or as lozenges that are sucked like cough drops, according to NIDA.
The illegally used fentanyl most often associated with recent overdoses is made in labs. This synthetic fentanyl is sold illegally as a powder, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye droppers and nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like other prescription opioids, according to NIDA.
How do you treat someone who has taken fentanyl?
Naloxone is a medicine that can reverse a fentanyl overdose when given right away.
Medication combined with behavioral therapies has been shown to be effective in treating people with an addiction to fentanyl and other opioids.
Can I do anything to help my kids avoid fentanyl?
Three things: Education. Education. Education. And the Colorado Health Network provides fentanyl test strips that can detect the presence of fentanyl in substances and naloxone to anyone that asks for it.
What do I do if I think my son or daughter has overdosed?
Call 911 immediately. Once medical personnel arrive, they will administer naloxone if they suspect an opioid drug is involved.
If I catch a dealer trying to sell drugs to my kids, what should I do? 
I refuse to answer that on the grounds that it may incriminate me.
Chief Vince Niski has worked in one police department, the Colorado Springs Police Department, for his entire 33-year career.


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