CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — One of West Virginia’s U.S. Attorneys is afraid that the string of overdoses–predominantly facilitated by the increase of fentanyl in the state–is going to become a permanent feature in the battle to end opioid addiction.
“I was on a national call and someone–a U.S. Attorney from Kentucky–said that this might be the new normal, these clusters of overdoses,” Bill Ihlenfeld, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, said Monday morning on the MetroNews-affiliated “The Mike Queen Show” on the AJR News Network. “The new threat that this poses is–look at Huntington. You have all the first responders in that community are going out to tend to these overdoses. Well, there might be somebody else who needs their attention as well.”
Ihlenfeld said a recent string of overdoses in West Virginia and in neighboring states brought this topic to the forefront of discussion in law enforcement circles.
“It is much more powerful than heroin,” he said. “It is 100 times more powerful than morphine. We’re seeing more and more of it on the streets of West Virginia and throughout the region. In Cincinnati, there were a rash of overdoses and in Kentucky and in Indiana. It’s a really hot topic right now in law enforcement.”
According to Ihlenfeld, many addicts don’t fear overdosing–making fentanyl’s rise particularly troubling.
“I think the reason they are adding fentanyl to the mix is because it does create a better high,” he said. “This might be counterintuitive to you and your listeners, but users will sometimes seek out the greater high even if they know someone has overdosed from it because they don’t think it’s going to happen to them.”
Last month, 28 people overdosed over a four span in Huntington. Last week, four people in Harrison County overdosed during an 18 hour span. Ihlenfeld said he sees some similarities between these recent in-state overdoses and other high profile cases.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s what we are seeing in other cases that’s coming from China and Mexico and is being made in clandestine laboratories,” Ihlenfeld said.
Ihlenfeld said abuse of fentanyl is also a major concern because of it’s intended medicinal purpose.
“It comes in a patch form and it’s used for end-stage cancer patients,” he said. “It’s applied to the skin to make sure that folks like that are in as much comfort as they can be at that stage of their life.”
Law enforcement in Harrison County warned citizens last week that anyone who comes into contact with “Jungle Killer” stamps should call law enforcement immediately.