New cases of fentanyl-laced heroin in Alaska spark concern among law enforcement

Published: May. 10, 2016 at 10:09 PM AKDT
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A drug that has already caused a heartbreak in Alaska may be getting more powerful. Alaska State Troopers say heroin is quickly becoming the drug of choice in Alaska, but now the state is seeing a new and more powerful form of heroin that is even more deadly.

Fentanyl has been used as a strong pain reliever for decades and is sometimes mixed with heroin to produce more powerful effects. Experts say the prescription drug can be up to 50 times more potent that heroin and 100 times more potent that morphine.

Fentanly-laced heroin is already a big problem in the lower 48. Now, law enforcement officials fear it has made its way to Alaska.

At the state’s crime lab in Anchorage, about a third of the substance analyses requested by law enforcement are for heroin. Fentanyl-laced heroin has been showing up in recent analyses from this year.

“Removing myself from my role at the lab, it’s concerning as a citizen,” said forensic scientist Charles Foster. He says fentanyl levels aren’t high enough yet to officially report, but the drug is definitely here in Alaska.

“As someone who knows exactly what dose of heroin they need to get the high they want without the risk of overdose, that same dose could easily cause an overdose scenario if fentanyl was in there,” said Foster.

A couple of samples have come out of the Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su areas and according to Alaska State Troopers there’s been on reported fentanyl-related death this year in Nome.

“It’s possible that there are other deaths that fentanyl was associated with but definitely something that we’re watching for and definitely something we are expecting to see a significant increase in,” said Capt. Jeff Laughlin, commander for the Trooper’s statewide drug enforcement unit.

Both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Centers for Disease Control say fentanyl use could be another health crisis in the country.