SALT LAKE CITY — Fentanyl is one of the deadliest drugs on the market. Just a small amount of the synthetic drug could cause someone to overdose and potentially die, said Brian Besser, the district agent in charge for the DEA in Utah.
“Fentanyl is the number one problem we are seeing with the cartels because they are putting that out in mass,” Besser said.
Friday, Besser read an alarming DEA intelligence report stating fentanyl had been found in unregulated vape cartridges in other areas of the nation. While there haven’t been any reported cases of this in Utah, Besser said it’s only a matter of time.
This is extremely concerning, Besser said.
“We are starting to see fentanyl make its way into the vaping industry, and we see that we are definitely going to see the death counts go up,” he said.
Vaping has been a heated topic in Utah. The latest numbers from the Utah Dept. of Health show more than 100 people have become sick from a vaping related illness and one person has died. Almost 90 percent of the patients have admitted to using unregulated THC cartridges.
The possibility of unregulated vape cartridges with fentanyl adds to the concerns of people using any sort of unregulated vape product, The C.O.O. of Odyssey House said.
“In terms of people buying illicit vape cartridges I think there needs to be a lot of caution there,” Christina Zidow said.
It is especially concerning with the youth population, Zidow said.
“That scares me a lot because I know many, many, many people vape,” she said.
Most people who come in contact with fentanyl, do so unknowingly, Besser said. Although there are people who seek out the strong drug.
“You are talking about a substance here that is over 100 times more potent, more powerful than street-level heroin,” he said.
Fentanyl is easy to disguise, Besser said, and has been found in a variety of drugs like marijuana, heroin, cocaine, pressed pills and other drugs.
“Synthetics are easy to make even though they are complex chemically, they are extremely volatile and very, very dangerous,” he said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are resources out there.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. SAMHSA’s National Helpline can be reached by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or on its website.
“Hope and help is possible and so is recovery,” Zidow said.