South Dakota authorities have taken 500-thousand dollars’ worth of a dangerous drug off the street. Tuesday Chamberlain Police and the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation executed a search warrant. They found 20,000 fentanyl pills.
Fentanyl has real medical uses. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that doctors prescribe the synthetic opioid to ease pain after surgery or alleviate chronic pain. People addicted to drugs may use fentanyl that’s manufactured for medicine.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says dealers also get the powerful painkiller from a black market.
"It’s where there is no physician. There is no pharmacist," Jackley says. "There’s pill mills that are literally producing tens of thousands of different controlled substances and putting them into the stream of commerce."
Jackley says that now happens in South Dakota. The attorney general says about 50 South Dakotans die of drug overdose each year.
"And the big concern that we see on the national level is that heroin laced with fentanyl is a very dangerous combination. It has resulted in thousands of deaths across the country," Jackley says. "But again here in South Dakota, we have been fortunate that we have avoided, to a certain degree, that national epidemic, But, obviously when you have a fentanyl operation of this size here in South Dakota, it is concerning."
Jackley says law enforcement officials work to keep fentanyl and other illicit drugs out of circulation. He says that strategy helps protect people from opioid addiction and health problems that come with substance abuse.
Jackley says one officer is being treated for exposure to the drug that’s 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
"Fentanyl, like many other controlled substances, can have a public health danger level," Jackley says. "So, when there’s an exposure to certain controlled substances, there’s always that concern that it can have an effect on one of our officers, so we, as a precautionary measure, seek and obtain immediate medical care to make sure the safety of our officers is taken care of."
Jackley says authorities are discovering more black market pills in South Dakota. He says the Chamberlain case is a second large bust; the other recent seizure happened in Mitchell where law enforcement found about 1,000 fentanyl pills.
In Tuesday’s case, 19-year-old Trevor Harden of Chamberlain faces a charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. That’s a Class 4 felony which carries a maximum of a $20,000 fine and 10 years in prison. Authorities say he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.