Fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid that is often mixed with illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin, is continuing to cause more overdoses and deaths in Fort Smith and the state.
Fort Smith emergency responders have saved lives of 66 people who overdosed on fentanyl this year with the life-saving Narcan drug that can counter the deadly effects of fentanyl and opiates.
Fort Smith police report that paramedics, firefighters and others have given 194 doses of Narcan to save people from what could have resulted in deadly overdoses.
This year, 66 people who were revived were confirmed to have fentanyl in their system with an additional 31 people overdosing on unconfirmed substances and pills possibly with fentanyl.
“Sadly, there have been a number of our friends, neighbors and loved ones who have died from fentanyl overdoses. It’s deadly, it’s here, and you need to be prepared,” according to a statement released by the public information office.
Fort Smith police are working to address the problem.
“Rest assured that your FSPD is working diligently with other local, state and federal law enforcement partners to aggressively identify and prosecute those who choose to prey on our community by dealing in illegal substances such as fentanyl,” McCabe said.
In the past year, four local fentanyl dealers have been indicted with one responsible for bringing over 36,000 fentanyl pills to Fort Smith in 2022.
“It is a growing problem that we are working daily to combat,” McCabe said.
The state crime lab in Arkansas is tasked with investigating a rise in fentanyl-related deaths statewide.
“We are seeing fentanyl-related deaths in teenagers, but primarily those in their 30s, 35%, and 40s, 32%. It’s important to continue to educate the pubic about the dangers of fentanyl,” said Cindy Moran, director of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock said Wednesday.
The spike in fentanyl deaths this year continues, she said.
Of the 496 drug overdoses in Arkansas in 2021, 56% of those were related to fentanyl, reports Cindy Moran, assistant director at the lab.
As of Aug. 1, there have been 275 drug overdoses in Arkansas and 145 of those deaths, or 53% are related to fentanyl.
In most cases, the overdose victims have other drugs involved such as methamphetamine, she said.
Also, 98% of the fentanyl deaths are determined to be accidental. People do not know the drugs are laced with fentanyl.
“We are receiving several drug cases containing illicit, mimic pharmaceutical tables containing fentanyl,” Moran said. The opioid epidemic does not discriminate, and is impacting Arkansas families.”
Aaron Howell, paramedic manger for Fort Smith Emergency Medical Services, said paramedics have administered Narcan for people who overdosed since Sept. 1. Firefighters and police officers also use Narcan to save lives.