BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — In the last year, one illegal substance continued to pop up more and more in our area: fentanyl.
Fentanyl, a pain killing opioid, is creating problems for law enforcement in our area. Law enforcement officers from both Raleigh county and Fayette county said they saw an increase in fentanyl recently. As a result, representatives from Charleston, including West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, met with multiple law enforcement agencies to discuss the problem.
“They are on the front lines and they are going to see the effects of the additional surge of fetanyl and heroin coming up to West Virginia,” Morrisey said.
Officials said fentanyl is roughly 20 times stronger than heroin, with its multiple variants even stronger. The drug is also appearing laced in heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana,
which increases the likelihood of any deadly interaction with it.
Raleigh County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Joshua Thompson, also serves as a felony drug prosecutor.
“This is not an after-school [public service announcement] that we all saw when we were younger about ‘Don’t do drugs,'” Thompson said. “It is not safe to do any drug right now, just because the fentanyl is in everything.”
Law enforcement officers said because our area contains the intersection of two major interstates, drugs are being taken through from the surrounding states through corridors such as I-77, I-64 and even U.S. 19. Morrisey said it is almost impossible to constantly monitor that much space.
“If you don’t have the resources to cover the ground for a 24-hour period, that can be a huge problem. We know that has to be addressed,” said Morrisey.
Thompson said communication is key, as multiple law enforcement agencies and federal task forces are joining forces to contain the problem.
“They are working around the clock,” Thompson said. “We are lucky to have the law enforcement agencies that we do here they are making it a top priority.”
But the fentanyl issue does not only affect law enforcement, it holds a danger with emergency management services as well.
On an emergency call, first responders don’t just handle the patient, they also handle the drugs. Ryan Bragg, who oversees business relations for Best Ambulance, explained more education is needed to warn about the dangers of this drug. This is because Fentanyl and its variants are actually strong enough to indirectly harm first responders.
“There are times that the fentanyls are going through the gloves and the first responders are overdosing accidentally,” Bragg said.
Bragg said there are gloves recently made to be strong enough to fight against fentanyl, though they are more expensive.
While Narcan helps to ease affects, he explained fentanyl can lie dormant and cause someone to re-overdose hours later.
Anyone severely exposed to the drug must immediately seek medical attention.