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Colorado addiction specialist says awareness is key as fentanyl overdoses rise

Following seizure of 110,000 fentanyl-laced pills, DEA agent says 'we can’t arrest ourselves out of this'
dea DRUG BUST.jpg
Posted at 5:46 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 17:39:05-05

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Fentanyl overdoses continue to plague the country, and Colorado is seeing the problem firsthand.

On Wednesday, the DEA announced an investigation has ended with the seizure of guns, cash and drugs, including 110,000 counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl. It also led to the arrest of 19 members of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Testing of the drugs seized found 40% of the fentanyl-laced pills contained a deadly dose.

"The fact of the matter is this poison is coming over from our borders unchecked," 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner said.

The fentanyl crisis reaches from coast to coast, and Colorado is not immune. Andrea Thomas knows that too well. Her 32-year-old daughter, Ashley Romero, overdosed on fentanyl in June 2018. Thomas says her daughter took half of a counterfeit Percocet laced with fentanyl.

"How could that be that a half a pill could kill someone and so fast?" Thomas said.

It’s the concentration of fentanyl that’s causing deaths in Colorado skyrocket, Denver Health addiction specialist Dr. Joshua Blum said.

"This is just totally uncharted territory. It feels like these drugs are just more dangerous," Blum said.

The state health website shows fentanyl related overdoses have more than doubled each of the last three years, topping out last year at 540 deaths. As of August 2021, there have already been 612 drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl.

"Literally everyone should be carrying Narcan, especially those who either use drugs or knows somebody who uses drugs," Blum said.

While 110,000 pills seized may seem like a lot, it’s likely just a drop in the bucket of what’s circulating in the state, David Olesky of DEA Denver says.

"What I would say is a year ago, a large seizure might’ve been 5,000 pills. So, this is a significant, especially with the potential of 40,000 lethal doses," Olesky said. "That’s why we realize we can’t arrest ourselves out of this. We have to spread the word as best we can."