Fentanyl Seizures Increasing in Colorado
With four months left in 2022, Colorado law enforcement officials at state and federal levels have already seized a record amount of fentanyl. Fox31 Denver (KDVR) reported that as of August, authorities have confiscated about 412 pounds of fentanyl, more than all previous years combined. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, 50 times stronger than heroin. In 2021, more than 900 Coloradans died from drug overdoses related to the drug.
“We appreciate the work law enforcement is doing to take this deadly poison off our streets,” Colorado U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan said in June. “We also need the help of the public in ending the demand for it. It is risky to take any drug not prescribed by a doctor and obtained from a pharmacy.”
During that time, from January to May of 2022, state authorities had already seized more fentanyl than all of 2021, as they confiscated more than two million doses. More people are taking pills laced with fentanyl, sometimes unknowingly, which increases their risk of developing an opioid addiction or experiencing a fatal overdose.
I-70, Colorado’s “Fatal Funnel”
As pure powder and fentanyl pills continue to spread across the United States, Colorado authorities are more sensitive to drug-trafficking activity happening on major highways. In late June, the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) recorded what’s believed to be the largest fentanyl seizure of its kind on Interstate 70 (I-70). Troopers confiscated 114 pounds of pure fentanyl powder from a car on its way through Denver. That much fentanyl is enough to kill more than 25 million people if swallowed or snorted, which is more than four times the population of Colorado (almost six million people).
Authorities consider I-70, the fifth-largest interstate in the United States to be a major pipeline, or “fatal funnel,” for transporting fentanyl and other illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. Colorado is one of eight states connected by I-70, which begins in Utah and ends just east of Baltimore, Maryland.
Bill Barkley, head of the CSP’s Smuggling, Trafficking and Interdiction Section (STIS) told the “Denver Gazette” that 70% of drugs on I-70 are trafficked towards the Denver metro area. Mexico is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of illegal fentanyl, and I-70 gives drug traffickers access to transport the deadly drug into Denver and across the United States in packages hidden in vehicles.
Working Through Solutions to Reduce Overdoses
Colorado’s record amount of fentanyl seizures is another positive step toward intercepting the deadly drug before it travels east of the Centennial state. However, authorities are still aware that enough of the drug is still circulating through local communities and impacting younger, more vulnerable populations. News of Colorado’s increase in fentanyl seizures follows reports about a 13-year-old in Aurora who, in August, died from what his family believes was a fentanyl-related overdose.
It echoes two statements made by Matthew Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, and Keith Weis, executive director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program about the unpredictability and dangers of Colorado’s drug market. Fentanyl is everywhere. Therefore, law enforcement officials and health professionals must stand united in working on strategies to prevent deadly overdoses.
“While I would love to tell you that our troopers have eliminated the threat of this deadly drug, what we remove is a drop in the ocean,” Packard said. “It’s cheap, it’s everywhere, including a strong counterfeit market where people think they are taking other forms of pills.”
“The user market for illicit fentanyl in the state is expanding,” Weis said. “To save lives, a unified response between public safety and health professionals will be essential to counter this dangerous trend.”
Related: Snapchat’s Response to Teen Overdose
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