Last week, the La Plata County coroner released an autopsy report that confirmed that a student at Animas High School had died of a fentanyl overdose, bringing concern to the community about the drug’s prevalence in La Plata County.
In recent years, La Plata County has seen a significant increase in the amount of fentanyl-related cases, Casey Malone, a commander at the Durango Police Department, said.
Fentanyl is a controlled substance designed to sedate or relax someone, Joey LaVenture, commander at the Southwest Drug Task Force, said. It’s classified as an opiate, he said.
“It's like playing Russian Roulette, you just don't know what is entering your body,” Malone said.
Fentanyl is mainly found in pill form, LaVenture and Malone said.
People will often accidentally take fentanyl through the presumption that the pill given is not fentanyl but rather some other sedative drug like Oxycodone, given by an unprescribed source, LaVenture and Malone said.
The best way to avoid unintentionally taking fentanyl is to make sure you only take prescribed medication and not to take anything that is not from a pharmacy, Malone said.
There is no specific targeted age group for these drugs, and rather the overdoses typically happen to individuals who take a pill that don’t know exactly what it is, LaVenture said.
It can be very difficult to detect if someone is overdosing on fentanyl, as it can happen very fast, Malone said. However, some indications are if the person has blue lips or experiences a sudden loss of consciousness, he said.
At FLC, campus police are required to carry Narcan, an emergency opioid overdose treatment that could save the life of someone who has overdosed on fentanyl, Lauren Pope, FLC spokeswoman, said.
“Consuming illegal substances have always posed a risk to the individual consumer, however, in recent years, that risk has increased substantially with the introduction of fentanyl. Fort Lewis College recognizes behaviors established in early adulthood often continue with lifelong effects, including substance use that turns into substance abuse and dependency. Fort Lewis College Housing, Police, Counseling, and Health Centers collaborate to address those issues and provide services to help students make healthy choices for lifelong success,” Pope said in a statement to The Independent on behalf of Fort Lewis College.