Fighting Fentanyl: CPD working to get deadly opioid off Charleston’s streets

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Charleston Police say they are seeing more overdose deaths related to Fentanyl in the City of Charleston.

Fentanyl is an opioid known to be 50 times more potent than Heroin. Dr. Ken Perry from Trident Healthcare says he only uses the substance for patients in extreme pain.

“Fentanyl is a really concerning one because it is extremely powerful. Just a small dose of it can cause severe problems,” he says.

Across the nation overdoses have been spiking since the beginning of the Pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control reports more than 81,000 fatalities due to overdose from June of 2019 to May of 2020; setting a new record.

From January 2020 until now, there have been more than 250 overdose deaths in Charleston; 56 of those fatal. Deputy Chief Jack Weiss says his biggest concern is the use of Fentanyl itself and drugs laced with Fentanyl.

“People might believe they’ve purchased Cocaine and it turns out it’s Fentanyl in a mixed white powder. Nationally we had an incident where Fentanyl was mixed with Marijuana,” he says.

Just 2-3 granules of Fentanyl can kill an adult human. When it is mixed with other drugs, specifically anti-anxiety medication, it can be more difficult to track and treat.

Naloxone, or Narcan, is the antidote to opioid overdoses. Weiss says all CPD officers are trained to administer Narcan and carry 2 doses on their person at all times.

However, Dr. Perry says if the patient has taken a combination of an anti-anxiety drug and Fentanyl, treatment is significantly more complicated.

“Benzodiazepines, which are one of the other medicines that are obviously mixed well, we cannot use the overdose medication for it very easily. If you give it, you can cause someone to have seizures,” he says.

CPD has been teaming up with local health experts to track and predict overdoses and offer vital help to those battling addiction. According to Weiss, their department is hoping to resume drug take back events in the near future.

 “We can’t tackle it all, you know, our officers aren’t trained doctors and things but we can help people get the resources,” says Weiss. “We’re not there to do a follow-up drug investigation. What we’re here to do is try to get aid to this individual that needs help.”

Despite their efforts, Weiss believes true progress will be made once legislation is passed in South Carolina to crack down on the source of these Fentanyl-lace drugs.

“We do not have a law that targets drug dealers who are selling lethal doses to individuals. We have to work as best we can with our federal partners for these obvious cases where somebody knew what they were selling and it led to people dying.” says Weiss.

According to Weiss there has been a bill proposed multiple times in the past but nothing has come to fruition quite yet.