OKLAHOMA CITY – Over the last 10 years the Center of Disease Control and Prevention has noticed an increase of opioid and Fentanyl overdose deaths in the United States per year from approximately 2,600 to more than 75,000.
With the Fentanyl threat entering Oklahoma’s borders, the Oklahoma National Guard’s 63rd Civil Support Team and the Oklahoma City Police Department arranged specialized training in October at the Oklahoma City Police and Fire Training Center in Oklahoma City in order to learn from subject matter experts with both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as share knowledge and discuss how to best combat the drug.
“Fentanyl is an emerging threat in the state of Oklahoma and the nation,” said Maj. Aaron Dougherty, deputy commander for the 63rd CST. “Due to this, the CST has teamed up with local agencies, and we have DEA, FBI, and various other agencies here with us collaborating to host a meeting to share knowledge to combat (the threat of) Fentanyl.”
Fentanyl was first invented in 1959 and introduced as an anesthetic, and though it is a pharmaceutical medication prescribed for specific instances, the drug is being illegally produced and sold on the black market. The drug is often combined with others such as heroin or cocaine, and is created to look like prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as Acetaminophen. In some cases it is made to look like candy, creating a significant threat to children.
“In its regular state, Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and is 50 times more potent than heroin,” Dougherty said. To show significance of the drug’s potency, Dougherty explained that Fentanyl the size of four granules of salt is a lethal dose.
During the training, the 63rd CST provided their specialized training and expertise to other local agencies, including demonstrating how their equipment can help identify opioids and what chemicals they consist of.
Sgt. Douglas Engel, a member of the 63rd Civil Support Team, says their equipment capabilities is a big reason they are helping host the training.
“We are supporting by bringing some of our equipment out today, showing our resources and what we can do, as well as giving other first responders an opportunity to see things through our lens and utilize some of our equipment,” Engel said. “Us having partnered to work with many of them, it helps us increase our lines of communication with them and build better bonds.”
Overall, each organization involved hopes to shed light on the growing problem of Fentanyl and take necessary measures to decrease the number of opioid related deaths in the state of Oklahoma and in the United States.
“We want to raise awareness on how severe Fentanyl can be and educate people that it doesn’t take much to be placed into what looks like candy or some other colorful object that kids will get ahold of, and we’ve already seen some of those overdoses in the United States,” Dougherty said.