Missoula, Mont. – Among Americans aged 18 to 45, no. High doses of opioid, the 1 killer, did not decrease and there was an increase in the more dangerous substance – fentanyl, police said.
In Montana, state law enforcement officials say drug cartels are specifically targeting more rural areas.
Montana Highway Patrol Troops have already seized three times more fentanyl tablets on the streets this year compared to 2021. Fentanyl is commonly used to treat patients with severe pain. But people are using it to get high and doing so is often the death penalty.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, Marla Olinger’s son moved to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana.
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“My son is great. He’s a good friend. He’s a great brother,” Olinger said.
But, by January 2022 something had changed.
“I notice his lack of attention. He was withdrawn,” Olinger said.
Olinger said he began to resist going to family events and she began to worry.
“Something told me I would never see my son again,” Olinger said.
Olinger is right. Her 33-year-old son, Justin Lee Littleindog, died of a fentanyl overdose on March 7. She said the toxicology report of his autopsy showed that he had 15.5 mg of the drug in his system. The lethal dose of fentanyl in humans is 2 mg.
“I feel like I’ve lost a very big part of myself and I struggle every day when I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. I lost my baby. He made me a mother,” Olinger said. .
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She now aims to encourage people to recognize addiction and seek help.
Blackfeat Nation declared a state of emergency in March after 17 opioid overdoses and four deaths per week on reservation.
However fentanyl reservation is not the only problem, it is a statewide problem.
“Since 2020, our crime lab has confirmed that fentanyl deaths have increased by 1,100%,” said Montana Attorney General Austin Nadsen.
Nadsen said Mexican drug cartels crossing the southern border targeted Montana.
“We have specific cartel intelligence, they are targeting Montana because they know they can make tremendous profits by selling a product that costs nothing to make here,” Nadson said.
He said the Blue M30 tablet would sell for $ 10 to $ 15 in Phoenix, Denver or Salt Lake City. In Montana, the price can be as high as $ 100 because the state is far from the border and there is little access to illicit drugs.
“You have to understand that cartels in Mexico can produce these fentanyl tablets for pennies on the dollar,” Nadsen said. “Cartels have huge profits.”
A few years ago, a dozen fentanyl tablets would represent a huge police busstand, Nadsen said. But now authorities are finding criminals who regularly travel with 10,000 tablets. He said it was fentanyl enough to kill every man, woman and child in the state.
Dr. Robert Sherick is the Chief Medical Officer for Community Medical Services, which operates 50 opioid treatment centers nationwide, including four in Montana. Fentanyl was seized, he said.
“Some 70% of our patients who come in with opioid-use disorder say somewhere … fentanyl is being tested positive,” Sherick said.
Sherick said the biggest obstacle to treatment is the drug stigma.
“If someone (an) has a severe addiction to opioid, be it fentanyl or any other opioid, they really need to be involved in treatment. They need to take medication,” Sherick said.
He said addicts should come into opioid treatment programs to receive drugs to stop drugs. He argues that patients do not trade one addiction for another when taking a drug to treat opioid addiction. Sherick says fentanyl has a very addictive successful rehabilitation rate compared to other opioids.
Those who are close to addiction hopefully addicts can get help and change their lives.
Christie Farmer, a resident of Blackfight Indian Reservation, was jailed for selling drugs after becoming addicted to methamphetamine. Now that she has recovered, she works as an advocate for addiction treatment in her community. She was also involved with Fentanyl in March of Olinger, who lost her son.
“I felt guilty when my cousin Marla’s son died,” the farmer said. “Because, I’m here, you know, talking about narcotics and minimizing harm. Can I help?”
The farmer said there was a push to raise awareness about the dangers posed by opioid use before the pandemic, but COVID-19 stopped those efforts. Treatment centers are available, but sometimes the wait for one is too long, the centers are too far away or understaffed.
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“I hope we can get more resources and services so that our people can – if they wake up one day, they say ‘I want some help’, they can go to one of these. Get places and estimates and get the help they need right away,” the farmer said.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services provides resources for help with addiction treatment.