Fentanyl: Severe Pain Drug Turned Abused Substance

Two Large Busts In Three Months Show National Epidemic Reach Into South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — On Wednesday, the Safe Trails Drug Task Force and DCI agents arrested Trevor Harden, 19, in Chamberlain.

They allege Harden had an estimated 20,000 fentanyl pills with a street value of $500,000.

It’s the second large fentanyl bust in the state in three months.

In April, a man was arrested with 1,000 fentanyl pills in Mitchell.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said there’s an area of concern with these bust totals.

“There’s this level of drugs that are obtained off the black market so there’s no South Dakota physician or South Dakota pharmacist involved. But it shows that this national epidemic can affect us here in South Dakota,” said Jackley.

During the Chamberlain bust, Jackley said an officer was exposed to the prescription pain killer.

“If one of our officers comes in any contact with these dangerous substances, we immediately seek medical treatment,” said Jackley.

Dan Peterson, owner of Dan’s Drugstore in Sioux Falls, said it’s that potent of a drug.

“If it’s ingested, even if it’s accidently, a very small amount, I had read, even a quarter of a milligram could, if it’s pure enough, cause serious problems as far as respiratory depression,” said Peterson.

Patients pick up prescribed fentanyl from his store.

He said it’s known commonly as a skin patch or dissolvable tablet and that it’s to help “severe” pain.

“Mostly, it could be pain due to cancer. It could be chronic pain patients but patients that are in a significant amount of pain,” said Peterson.

On a scale of pain medication, Peterson said fentanyl sits toward to top.

“It’s stronger than hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone, as well. It certainly has its place in practice for those who have very serious pain. However, the potential for abuse and misuse is also there,” said Peterson.

Fentanyl is considered an opioid.

Since 2013, the number of opioid-related overdoses in South Dakota has nearly doubled.

However, a 2014 Center for Disease Control report put South Dakota 49th out of 51 states (includes District of Columbia) in drug overdose rates.

Also, a 2015 National Center of Health Statistics report had South Dakota ranked 20th out of 21 states in an age-adjusted rate of drug overdoses.

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