Hobbs is faced with a new drug problem.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has led to a number of overdoses in Hobbs during the past two weeks.
“A large majority of the overdoses we are running into are fentanyl related,” said Officer David Torres of HPD’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team. “Right now we are seeing a huge rise in the Hobbs community as far as fentanyl use.”
Torres said the trend has quickly grown. During the first two months of 2021, HPD responded to 19 fentanyl-related overdoses. Within the past two weeks, from March 14-26, HPD responded to 15 overdoses.
“What we have been seeing lately is a rise in fentanyl pills that have several names, some may relate it to ‘fake oxycodone’ and that trend stems from a pain relievers,” Torres said. “A lot of heroin users are switching back to fentanyl because it can be easily hidden and be easily used. I think that is why the trend is becoming more popular in this area.”
According to the U.S. Drug Administration (USDA), fentanyl is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It can be found as easy as on the street or in the medicine cabinet of a person with a legitimate need. Like morphine, fentanyl is a medicine typically used to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery. It is also sometimes used by those in the late stages of cancer.
Torres said HPD has come in contact with fentanyl users who have been abusing the drug for an extended period of time. Some finding different methods of usage with different narcotics. But this recent trend has seen usage within a certain age group.
“We have also seen it with individuals 18-21 years of age,” Torres said. “That is a very popular age usage from what we have been gathering due to the different forms of legal usage.”
Fentanyl can be prescribed as patches, lozenges and sprays. But what HPD investigators have found is fentanyl can be illegally created in a powder or pill form and made to look like another drug.
“The pill form is trying to be passed off as oxycodone and we want people to be aware that if you are getting this off the street it can be fatal,” Torres said. “Because of its potency, we are looking at .25 milligrams of fentanyl that can be fatal to someone who has never used it. That’s a few specks of this drug that can be very fatal.”
Inhalation is another form of usage Torres said. Often times with homemade materials like tin foil an straws.
“You can put it on tin foil, heat it up an inhale it through the straw,” Torres said. “The powder can be mixed with other narcotics, as far as methamphetamine or cocaine. We’ve seen a rise in popularity in mixing narcotics and that changes over time.”
Currently, these are the popular forms of usage found in the area. Torres said HPD has been in contact with other law enforcement agencies where they have seen the abuse of patches.
The USDA states in its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq, Duragesic and Sublimaze. Street names for illegally used fentanyl include Apache, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfellas, Jackpot, Murder 8 and Tango & Cash.
Like other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions, according to the USDA. After taking opioids many times, the brain adapts to the drug, diminishing its sensitivity, making it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. When people become addicted, drug seeking and drug use take over their lives. Fentanyl’s effects include extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, problems breathing and unconsciousness
Torres said HPD officers have recently been required to have Narcan within their police vehicle’s medical packs. Narcan is a nasal spray that counteracts the effects of fentanyl.
“We have just had training in Narcan,” Torres said. “We are trained in how to administer the Narcan, which keeps people stable until medics arrive.”
To combat the new drug trend, Torres said HPD is working with other law enforcement agencies through investigative methods. Another weapon in the war is community outreach and assistance.
“Our main concern is helping the people addicted and those people who may know someone abusing to this stuff,” Torres said. “I know some stores around here that sells Narcan. So obtaining the stuff is a safety measure in the event someone comes across a person who is overdosing. It could be a friend or a family member whose life they could be saving. So getting that knowledge out to the community is a main concern for us.”
Torres said anyone who thinks they know someone who is abusing fentanyl and wants to learn more about the drug can contact the police department at 575-397-9265.
“We have taken the training, including safety as well,” he said. “We have a process where we can collect these drugs and store them properly so they are not out on the street. So if there are people who have these concerns they can feel free to contact us and officers would be happy to go out there and make sure we are addressing things appropriately and start conversations with the people.
“They probably has several questions but are afraid to ask us. However, definitely encourage the conversation so they can contact us at any time.”
Did you know:
Fentanyl is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. In its prescription form it is prescribed for pain but fentanyl is also made illegally and distributed as a street drug.
• Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths.
• Illegal fentanyl is sold in the following forms: as a powder, dropped on blotter paper like small candies, in eye droppers or nasal sprays, or made into pills that look like real prescription opioids.
• Illegal fentanyl is being mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and MDMA. This is especially dangerous because people are often unaware that fentanyl has been added.