WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — According to the CDC, fentanyl overdose is now the leading cause of death for adults 18-45 years old. The CDC also reported that back in August 2019, the state of Kansas saw 64 people die from an overdose of a synthetic opioid like fentanyl. By April 2021, that number jumped to 240 deaths in a single month, a 375% increase in only 20 months.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter says the problem originates about 800 miles to the south of Wichita.
“It’s somewhat controversial, but all of this stuff is being shipped up from the cartels in Mexico. We’ve got to do something about our border before it even gets here.”
Sheriff Easter explained that methamphetamine is still the biggest drug problem in Wichita, but fentanyl use continues to rise.
“What you have is, due to the pill problem in this country for years and overprescribing, now that’s not taking place so people who were taking pills are turning to heroin.”
Fentanyl’s danger is the minute amount needed to overdose.
“These aren’t rocket scientists that are combining heroin and fentanyl, so the mixture can be too strong, and you can have a lot of people overdose from one bad batch of heroin and fentanyl combined,” Sheriff Easter added.
Tina Brown lost her son, to a fentanyl overdose in 2019.
Brown says many users that overdose doesn’t even know they took fentanyl until it’s too late, “I really hope that this stuff, how you don’t know if it’s going to be in the drugs that you are taking or not, will caution into not taking drugs.”
Employees with Holland Pathways Addiction Treatment Center say some residents are surprised when they get their drug test results back.
“If they test positive for fentanyl, they don’t even know they had it. They say, ‘I didn’t do fentanyl.’ But everything is pretty much getting cut with the fentanyl,” said Roberta Arell, Holland Pathways residential manager.
The facility is also seeing younger and younger people come through its door.
Michael Pentecost, a licensed addiction counselor at the facility added, ” We’re seeing 18 and 19 year olds whereas it used to be 23, 24, 25 year olds. We are seeing a surge in younger folks.”
While fentanyl is the leading cause of opioid overdoses, overdose deaths as a whole in the state of Kansas jumped by more than 45 percent just between May 2020 and May 2021.