Law enforcement authorities are warning that the dangerous narcotic fentanyl is becoming a more common street drug in Utah.
U.S. Attorney John Huber says fentanyl can be 50 times more potent than heroin, and only a few milligrams of the substance can be deadly.
“Unsuspecting drug abusers or addicts will take what they think is a pain pill that they’re used to taking, but it has been laced with this substance that is so powerful it can kill a healthy human being with as little as two milligrams,” he says.
Huber says fentanyl can come in tablets or a powder form, which can easily be mistaken for cocaine or heroin. He says drug traffickers often sell the drug as heroin or pain pills.
Fentanyl can be a legal painkiller when prescribed by a doctor, but Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Brian Besser says most fentanyl on the streets has been manufactured, mixed with, and disguised as other drugs.
“And the users unfortunately have absolutely no idea that they are taking fentanyl,” he says. “So what you have here is an abuse form of Russian Roulette.”
Besser also says because of its potency, fentanyl poses a huge risk to law enforcement and K-9 officers.
“They are being unduly exposed to this lethal threat. It is a grave risk for law enforcement, for public health care workers and for first responders,” he says.
In June, law enforcement officers arrested 21-year-old Nathaniel Jetter for allegedly using an illegal pill press to manufacture tablets containing fentanyl. Huber says it is the first case of an illegal fentanyl lab in Utah.