Fentanyl has arrived in Henderson County in a big way.
Athens PD Assistant Chief Rodney Williams and Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse both said they have seen a substantial increase in fentanyl-related incidents in recent weeks.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is significantly stronger than morphine and heroin. This high level of potency has raised concerns among law enforcement.
“It is very deadly,” said Sheriff Botie Hillhouse. “Basically, one in every 10 pills made in illegal labs is enough for an overdose. The powder is very, very deadly. One gram of pure fentanyl powder – the equivalent of a sweetener packet – could kill up to 500 people.”
In late April, a 25-year-old woman was shot to death in Bonita Point outside of a house where law enforcement found large amounts of heroin and fentanyl. That was closely followed by officials using Narcan in the Henderson County Jail for the first time to treat a fentanyl overdose.
Those two incidents marked the beginning of the rise of the drug in Henderson County, according to officials.
“We’ve had one death this month we believe is from a fentanyl overdose and had also had another case involving the drug,” Assistant Chief Williams said.
Henderson County isn’t unique when it comes to fentanyl. The drug has been growing nationally for the past couple of years, and its prevalence in East Texas has been rising.
And that’s what scares law enforcement.
“Honestly, I don't think the public knows how deadly this is or how serious it is,” said Sheriff Hillhouse. “What really scares me is the idea of kids getting a hold of it and not knowing what it is.”
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA):
Criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills to deceive the American public.
Fake pills are easy to purchase, widely available, often contain fentanyl or methamphetamine, and can be deadly.
Fake prescription pills are easily accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors.
Many fake pills are made to look like prescription drugs such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®).
Sheriff Hillhouse and Assistant Chief Williams urge the public to immediately report any pills from an unknown origin. Call the Athens Police Department at 903-675-5454 or the Sheriff’s Office at 903-675-5128.