Spike in suspected fentanyl overdoses prompts Llano County’s safety announcement

Hill Country

LLANO, Texas (KXAN) — Llano County’s judge and district attorney issued a public safety announcement regarding a sharp increase in drug overdoses within the county.

Specifically, county officials are singling out the drug fentanyl. They say there are have been six overdoses they think are related to the drug reported in the county in recent weeks, one of which resulted in a death and others being hospitalized. City, county and federal investigators are involved in trying to sort everything out, officials said.

Fentanyl is suspected of being in pills that resemble prescription drugs oxycodone or hydrocodone, officials said. The pills most recently seized by law enforcement look like pills manufactured by a pharmaceutical company, but they aren’t. They are suspected of containing various levels of fentanyl, the synthetic drug that’s 50-100 times more powerful than morphine.

“The public should be aware that use of fentanyl is a high-risk activity with a much greater chance of overdose, which can be fatal,” county attorney Dwain Rogers said. “Drugs laced with fentanyl are often mislabeled and anyone using illicit drugs cannot assume that they know what they are taking. It is quite possible to take fentanyl without the user’s knowledge, resulting in overdose.”

The seized drugs are undergoing further testing by the Texas Department of Public Safety lab, but officials believe that fentanyl is what is causing the hospitalizations and death. Officials said traffickers of the pills often mix combinations of narcotics with amounts of fentanyl to intensify the effects, and even a small amount of the drug can lead to an overdose. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says a lethal dose of fentanyl can be as low as two milligrams.

“Our office usually focuses on the prosecution of drug offenses,” district attorney Sonny McAfee said. “However, fentanyl is such a powerful and dangerous drug that we are working with law enforcement, other county officials, and anyone else who can help prevent more overdoses and the associated dangers to the public.”

If you suspect anyone of trafficking, selling or otherwise distributing these types of pills, call the Llano County Sheriff’s Office at 325-247-5767. Tips can be left anonymously.

Gov. Abbott addresses fentanyl trafficking

In May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott discussed fentanyl trafficking as it relates to border security. He said the state’s fentanyl problem started last year, but has “escalated” in the early part of 2021.

Abbott said that in all of 2020, the Department of Public Safety seized 11 pounds of fentanyl, which is enough of the drug to administer 2.4 million lethal doses. In just the first four months of 2021, DPS has seized 95 pounds of fentanyl, which equals more than 21 million lethal doses.

Abbott and other border law enforcement officials say cartels from Mexico are smuggling fentanyl across the border during the surge of migrants try to cross. While border agents are focused on unaccompanied minors and others crossing the border, it leaves gaps for the cartels to move drugs like fentanyl into the country, they say.

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