Illegally sold fentanyl has arrived in Kodiak.
Even though illegal fentanyl use picked up in the Lower 48 a few years ago, the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit in Kodiak — comprised of Sgt. Garrett Frost, head of the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit in Kodiak; an investigator with Alaska troopers, four service-members in the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and one officer from the Kodiak Police Department — wasn’t seeing it on the island until last year.
The first signs that the drug had arrived and was being sold and distributed illegally happened around the start of the summer when people began overdosing on heroin, according to Frost. Unbeknownst to many of them, their drugs had been laced with fentanyl, Frost said.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that doctors can prescribe legally to treat patients with chronic severe pain or severe pain following surgery. But it has great potential for misuse and abuse because of its potency and addictive powers.
Drug dealers use it to cut heroin or create knock-offs of pain-killers such as Oxycodone. It is growing in popularity because it is only a fraction of the cost of heroin, according to Frost.
In December, the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit seized almost 100 fentanyl pills at the start of the month. The pills were light blue and labeled “M-30,” according to court documents.
Often, dealers create fentanyl pills that are designed to look like legally prescribed pain-killers, according to Frost.
On top of that there was what Frost considers a typical amount of methamphetamines and a lower-than-usual amount of heroin seized in December. The Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit seized around a pound and a half of methamphetamines, which has a street value of approximately $113,250 in Kodiak, and five grams of heroin, which has a street value of around $3,000 in Kodiak, according to Frost.
In general, the demand for heroin and methamphetamines has not decreased over the past year, Frost said. However, the supply of those drugs have been limited by prevention efforts happening in Anchorage and the Lower 48, he said. When it comes to heroin, methamphetamines and, more recently, fentanyl, the drugs usually originate in Mexico and make their way up the West Coast to Washington, then to Anchorage and finally to Kodiak, Frost said.
It’s hard to know how many people on the island are using fentanyl, or any type of drug, Frost said. Typically, law enforcement encounters a number of repeat offenders, which do not constitute the entire population of drug users, he said. Even though there are many unknowns, there are patterns in the users who are caught: most of them are in the City of Kodiak and the majority of them are between the ages of 20 to 35, according to Frost.
From what he’s gathered through conversations with people who are arrested, people tend to start using drugs for one of two reasons: They succumb to peer pressure, or they had a serious injury or underwent a surgery and were prescribed too many painkillers, which they became addicted to.
Frost doesn’t expect fentanyl use to decrease anytime soon. Because of the nature of opioid addiction — people build up tolerances and seek stronger, less expensive drugs — the usage of fentanyl across the country, including in Kodiak, will continue to increase, Frost predicts.