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Governor Dunleavy addresses fentanyl crisis in Alaska: One pill can kill

Christian Fernsby |
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy addressed the fentanyl crisis in Alaska, highlighting the effort of healthcare officials and others to spread the warning: one pill can kill.

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As fentanyl and fentanyl precursors flow from China to Mexico, the drug makes its way to Alaska through an insufficiently protected southern border. Often in the form of counterfeit pills or added to heroin or other drugs.

While extremely poisonous, (100 times more potent than morphine) fentanyl is used by dealers because it is extremely addictive to the user, even in amounts the size of a few grains of salt.

“As a result of that total disregard for the safety of others, these drug dealers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law including being charged with manslaughter if an individual ingests that drug and dies,” said Governor Dunleavy.

“I will be asking for the Legislature to increase the penalties to the maximum extent possible for anyone who deals fentanyl or fentanyl-laced drugs.”

Fentanyl is driving a 71 percent increase in opioid deaths in Alaska from 2020 to 2021. This insidious drug is a threat to all Alaskans. Overdose deaths increased 25 percent in the same time period for Alaskans aged 15-24. A larger increase of nearly 300 percent was seen in young working adults aged 25 to 34.

Last week the Alaska High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative, which includes the Alaska State Troopers along with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, seized more than $356,000 worth of illegal narcotics in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska.

In the first three months of 2022, the Alaska HIDTA initiatives has seized 1,244 grams of fentanyl, enough to kill 622,000 Alaskans. Just two milligrams of fentanyl could be lethal.

Alaska is seeing on average 14.8 overdoses per 100,000 people, with the highest doses per capita rate in Anchorage at 20.8 overdoses per 100,000 people followed by Ketchikan, Juneau, Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su.

Last week, the Division of Public Health received materials to create 11,000 naloxone kits. Teams assembled several thousand kits for distribution. Public Health is also sending materials to 100 agencies to distribute.

Naloxone is a nasal spray that quickly reverses an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids. It also has no harmful side effects. Naloxone is also available from pharmacies across the state. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has been engaged in multiple education, intervention, and prevention efforts on opioids since 2017 and is updating the Statewide Opioid Action Plan.


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