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The Dangerous Battle Against Deadly Fentanyl

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This synthetic opioid, often mixed with heroin, is so toxic that people easily overdose and drug agents don special suits to handle it.

We take you inside the battle against a deadly narcotic a synthetic painkiller a hundred times more powerful than morphine as a street drug it’s far more potent than even the purest forms of heroin fentanyl is taking the opioid epidemic to a new level of urgency especially in new hampshire where the monster drug kills far more people than gun violence so what’s

The dea doing to stop it from spreading abc’s senior justice correspondent pierre thomas reports from the frontlines lubbock texas covered head-to-toe using oxygen tanks to breathe you would think these officers are about to come in contact with a deadly disease but this is an alleged illegal drug land us just being here next door and just regular stuff like

That and we could have been exposed in sign officers are searching for something so lethal and toxic law enforcement can’t afford to take any chances all of this because they’re about to come in contact with fentanyl a synthetic opioid often mixed with heroin but up to 40 times more powerful and leaving a deadly trail across the country this heroin overdose is one

Of more than 80 in just three days around the tri-state as heroin sweeps across the nation fentanyl is making it even more dangerous and now users are taking it in bootleg pill form mixed with god knows what in 2015 the number of opioid deaths surpassed 30,000 mule in part by the surge in fentanyl overdoses far outpacing deaths like gun-related homicides so toxic

That the dea recently sent out a warning to police around the country with this chilling story grab the bag and i closed it up forcing the air out of it so i get a good seal and when i did that a bunch of it proofed up into the air right in our face and we ended up inhaling it i felt like my body was shutting down you actually felt you were dying and you have to be

That careful every day i went to a law enforcement laboratory in new hampshire to see how they’re battling the deadly drug this would be an example of a heroin a lethal dose of the typical batch of heroin and then this file would be the typical dose of fentanyl what we need is you can kind of see it the air quality is not uh it’s not a level that you can breathe

Inside these fentanyl mills we’re forced to wear air packs and in masks to breathe fresh air while we’re in these these mills he’s found a mill yes oxygen takes you suit up to get a sense of what the agents are going through so you’re just up in trance got it deep breath i’ve had fun until here today it’s very cumbersome labor increases the phenomena me susanna

Travis of the business eternal on the question suits are so difficult and exhausting to manure in agents can only wear them for 15 minutes at a time fentanyl nearly killed 21 year old morgan gilman who said she was looking for stronger hi after more than a year on heroin i picked up a large amount of fentanyl and then did what i would normally do and then on my

Drive home i was doing about 80 on the highway when i od at the wheel she crashed waking up handcuffed to a hospital bed did that make you want to get off the drug or did you still have a desire for i was so afraid of detoxing morgan lives at ground zero for the fentanyl epidemic the tiny state of new hampshire it’s a safe state they’re typically fewer than 20

Homicides a year but there were more than 400 overdose deaths in 2015 around 70% of those were fentanyl related ten officials say they expect overdose deaths in 2016 to come close to 500 once all the data is in again overwhelmingly fentanyl related i’ve been involved in the forensic field here in new hampshire for 27 years and i lived through the crack epidemic

And the methamphetamine what we never had dust associated with it like we do now the number two ranking official at the dea says he’s never seen anything like it if anything can be likened to a weapon of mass destruction or what it does to a community it’s fentanyl the synthetic opioid is cheaper and easier to produce than heroin a goldmine for the cartels what

You’re seeing is very sophisticated criminal organizations they understand the addiction issue is present here and they’re doing everything they can to control the market yet another case of mexican cartels influencing what’s happening here in the state side absolutely i mean i think people on the west coast and silicon valley at work on the new iphone i think

The sinaloa cartel is working on the next product they’re going to market to the addiction base in the united states and i got to tell you across the country they don’t care who dies it’s now being distributed throughout the country coming not just from mexico but also china spread to secret locations warehouses apartment complexes and homes drug dealers sometimes

Using something as simple as a blender to mix it it’s like russian roulette when it hits the streets too much fentanyl gets mixed in people down authorities are now trying to target the sellers believed to be the merchants of death so we’re embrace at the same time whoever sees him first just to be cognizant 5 a.m. the dea has teamed up with local police to take

Down a suspected dealer that’s the dealer with his hands up the suspect is apprehended next agent searches house so the search is still under way but they’ve already found what they believe is some product it is so this is what was located inside the residence what we have here is a finger suspected fentanyl without maybe some heroin but definitely that novice

Uncut this is some broken up broken up finger you can tell ya later that gay to more risk is that the guy yeah both accused of selling a heroin fentanyl combo that killed its users so there’s two people in a span of an hour less than a couple miles apart across the country the arrests are just one weapon in the war on drugs how much heroin did you use some police

Have started releasing photos of addicted parents passing out in their cars their toddler strapped in their car seats hoping to shame the women unable to move or speak in an apparent but in manchester some measures also include compassionate non punitive approaches their fire houses have become places of refuge for users coming in off the streets we have a guy

Walking over right now for hey how you doing you made it through the night everyday a steady stream of people who already use fentanyl and heroin come here looking for an emergency lifeline we doing hopefully ah help going to any place for what exactly jogging is which a spice pounding practical on this man gets his vitals checked then is evaluated for a recovery

Program he hopes will break his pattern of drug abuse we have a second one walked in so it’s a so-called safe station where there’s no risk of arrest police are working extremely hard to you know take the drugs off the streets and they’re hitting it hard this way we’re trying to get people in recovery we’re hitting it hard this way you got to hit this problem from

So many different angles all hands on deck for state under siege its victims many you can’t say no even though you know you can kill you and it has nearly killed you i mean you can’t stop latasha simmons had used heroin for years but had never even heard of fentanyl until she ended up in the hospital the first of three overdoses i feel like i’m finally ready now

I don’t know why it took so long and it hurts and it hurt a lot of people around me it cost you a lot dead it’s taken almost everything for me we’ve lost everything in my life besides my life at this point and i don’t want anybody else or anybody else’s family for that matter to go through that when did you last od with how long ago was that six days ago six days

Ago wow in green for six days so you’re fresh to this process yep scary what brought you to this point um heroin addiction it’s a struggle natasha hopes to overcome now ninety days clean thanks to the help of others like morgan who’s been sober for seven months honey swear it last name tosh and is working not just to save her own life but uh you feel like you have

A future now i do i have a job helping people who are just like me everybody cares about each other so much like i get to sing at a recovery rally on saturday you feel lucky to survive yeah i’m grateful every single day grateful to have survived and trying to keep others from choosing her painful path for nightline pierre thomas in manchester new hampshire

Transcribed from video
The Dangerous Battle Against Deadly Fentanyl By ABC News