Local agencies, PANT investigate fentanyl-laced pills in Yavapai County

Many of the tablets seized in the Yavapai County area containing fentanyl look like these tablets provided by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and the Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking. (YCSO/Courtesy)

Many of the tablets seized in the Yavapai County area containing fentanyl look like these tablets provided by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and the Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking. (YCSO/Courtesy)

What is fentanyl?

• Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

• Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is sold in the following forms: as a powder; spiked on blotter paper; mixed with or substituted for heroin; or as tablets that mimic other, less potent opioids.

• Fentanyl works by binding to the body's opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. Its effects include euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, tolerance, addiction, respiratory depression and arrest, unconsciousness, coma, and death.

• The high potency of fentanyl greatly increases risk of overdose especially if a person who uses drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains fentanyl.

--Information provided by the Yavapai County Sherriff's Office

YAVAPAI COUNTY -- Local law enforcement agencies and Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking are investigating cases involving pills/tablets containing fentanyl in recent weeks, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.

The seized tablets have no “visible indication” of their content, according to a YCSO news release. PANT also seized several capsules they believe contain fentanyl.

According to YCSO, PANT investigations are ongoing. YCSO will provide updates on specific cases and arrests.

YCSO spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said even small doses of fentanyl can be deadly. He said there have been cases of overdoses in Yavapai County in recent months.

“YCSO, its law enforcement partners and MatForce, urge families to talk now about the dangers of drug use,” D’Evelyn said. “With fentanyl-laced pills available in our community, it is very important that teens understand the life-threatening risk of sharing pills at parties, and how drug experimentation can have fatal consequences. You can help stop this drug epidemic from claiming more lives of those we love.”

Cottonwood Police Sgt. Monica Kuhlt called the cases a "nationwide epidemic" and that the situation is even worse in other states.

"We have also had local overdoses where it was believed (or possibly confirmed through toxicology) that pills and heroin the person injected/ingested contained fentanyl." she wrote in an email.

Kuhlt said the fentanyl officers are seeing on the streets is so dangerous, "law enforcement now has a protocol to safely handle the stuff."

"We carry Narcan (naloxone HCL) to administer to an officer exposed to fentanyl until we can get them to the hospital," she wrote. "Scary stuff."

According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, officers were called after a 20-year-old man was found unconscious and in need of medical attention. Officers used Narcan to help the man. Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus called it “life-saving,” according to the article.

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