DEA agent
A Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Courtesy DEA

With National Prescription Drug Take Back Day approaching on April 24, it’s an appropriate time to share some of my experiences in law enforcement as a narcotics detective.

I am very passionate about drug prevention, especially for the youth who all too often are made to believe it is cool to use drugs without understanding the lethal consequences. I’m lucky enough to work with like-minded individuals who love to mentor and leave a lasting, positive effect on children.

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All too often, my partners and I respond to overdose deaths. Most recently, a 17-year-old was found dead by a family member and fentanyl is suspected as the cause of death. The least favorite part of my job is to see families mourn the loss of a child due to drugs.

Nonetheless, this is what motivates our dedicated team of individuals to relentlessly pursue those responsible for selling these drugs. That young man had a whole life ahead of him. He was taken from his family too soon before he could go to college, become a husband and become a father. This weighs heavily on our law enforcement family.

Even when I encounter children on not such great terms because they’ve made a bad decision or used poor judgment, I try to reach them and change their outlook. If I can reach just one of you out there, it will all be worth it.

I regret the need to even write this article. When I was growing up, fentanyl was not even on the radar and it was not a threat to me and those around me. Nonetheless, I want to share what my partners and I have seen in recent times with regards to opioids, particularly fentanyl, which is the most lethal and deadly drug.

San Diego and the rest of the country are facing an opioid epidemic. Opioids are the most addicting drug — period. People who use opioids like fentanyl, heroin, or pain pills such as hydrocodone will often do anything to feed their habit. The withdrawal from opioids is so intense, people who are addicted will do anything to avoid the common symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and profuse sweating.

As a result, users and those who are addicted will find a way to buy their drugs at all costs. This often includes stealing, breaking into cars, robbing innocent people on the street, and robbing other users. It is no surprise there is a direct nexus between drug addiction and these types of crimes.

So, what exactly is fentanyl? Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. In simple terms, it was originally a pharmaceutical drug manufactured to help cancer patients with pain management. Unfortunately, most of the fentanyl we see today on the streets is illegally manufactured in clandestine labs in Mexico.

This is problematic because this type of fentanyl is not regulated or manufactured in a pharmaceutically controlled environment. The potency is inconsistent, and fentanyl is often cut down or mixed with similar substances that are not supposed to be ingested — like rat poison.

And fentanyl is often used to cut down other controlled substances, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, putting users at an even greater risk. Fentanyl can appear in many forms, but the most common forms are blue M30 pills made to look like oxycodone and a white powdery substance. The equivalent of a grain of salt is enough pure fentanyl to kill someone instantly.  

Our children and community are at great risk with fentanyl. It is so readily available and prevalent in other illegal controlled substances that children may be curious about trying. So, I challenge you all from the bottom of my heart. If you or someone you know is using drugs or abusing opioids, please find a way to get them help through the San Diego Access and Crisis Hotline at (888) 724-7240.

This Saturday, on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, remember to clear out old medications and give up those drugs. If we can change just one person’s life as a result, it is all worth it.

The writer is a narcotics detective at a San Diego-area agency and a member of the SWAT Team. Times of San Diego is not using his name out of concern for his safety.