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DEA discusses opioid epidemic in Utah after synthetic drug operation busted in Midvale

MIDVALE, Utah – A day after carrying out a bust at a home in Midvale, the DEA says synthetic opioid trafficking remains a growing concern in Utah.

A spokesman for the DEA says part of the reason suspects are producing and trafficking opioids in Utah is because they don’t have to go far to find consumers.

Agent Brian Besser of the DEA says their task force is narrowing their focus.

“So the DEA Salt Lake City Metro Narcotic Task Force is trying to identify any and all synthetic opioid traffickers in the greater Salt Lake area and around the state," he said.

The task force's latest bust occurred in Midvale Thursday, and Besser says the job has become more dangerous of late due to synthetic drugs. He said these potent compounds can have devastating effects with seemingly minimal exposure.

“And the fentanyl threat is measured in milligrams and micrograms,” he said. “...just two milligrams of fentanyl, that’s roughly the size of two grains of table salt, is potentially fatal to a non-opioid user.”

Hazardous material teams from the Unified Fire Authority and the Utah National Guard's 85th Civil Support Team assisted the task force with Thursday’s operation.

Besser said Utah fluctuates between being the 7th and 8th most deadly state in the nation in terms of opioid overdoses, with six to 10 Utahns dying weekly.

Besser says those living near the Road Home shelter in downtown Salt Lake City are particularly vulnerable.

"It has kind of become, to some degree, an open-air drug market,” he said. “You can get what you want, when you want, and how you want it down there. That's a problem, a big problem, and we're dealing with that. So yes, when you have a vulnerable group of people, drug trafficking organizations, and namely the cartels, take note of that.”

Agent Besser wouldn't specify what kind of synthetic drug was being made in the Midvale home, or how much of it was being made. He said those details will come out in the next week as their investigation advances.