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Montana sheriff issues fentanyl warning after overdose deaths

Posted at 8:40 PM, Feb 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-02 17:40:31-05

Law enforcement leaders are warning about the dangers of fentanyl after a string of overdose deaths in Montana.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said Friday that the state crime lab reported three deaths from fentanyl in the Billings area, within one week. There was another death in the Helena area.

Dutton said, in three of these cases, the fentanyl was disguised as oxycodone pills and sold on the black market. That is dangerous because fentanyl is far more potent than other drugs that may be abused.

“Fentanyl, in that big a dose, is going to kill you,” he said.

The drug is so hazardous that Dutton said first responders can experience symptoms simply from inhaling its dust.

In light of the fentanyl threat, law enforcement is warning that no one should buy oxycodone or other opioid painkillers except from a pharmacist.

“If you illegally bought some oxys, just because you have a habit, get rid of them,” said Dutton. “It’s not a hoax. Put it in our receptacle; we don’t track who comes in there.”

The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Helena Police Department have a pill drop box at the Law Enforcement Center. On Monday, that box will be moved to the new Law and Justice Center, at 406 Fuller Avenue.

Other counties, including Cascade, have recently reported a number of overdoses, but it’s not clear yet whether fentanyl played a role in any of those deaths.

Dutton said this is a public safety issue.

“You’re gonna reach into that pill bottle and it’s going to be your last time,” he said. “The risk is death. The choice is yours.”

A fentanyl overdose can be treated with naloxone, a medication many local first responders carry. But Dutton said it requires a massive dose – and it’s often too late by the time emergency personnel arrive.

“Don’t take a chance,” he said. “Get help. Because this is going to have disastrous consequences.”

Story by Jonathon Ambarian, MTN News