Latest chapter in the opioid epidemic hits Alaska

SOURCE: FDA / MGN
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) For the first time a powerful synthetic opioid, disguised as oxycodone has been found in Alaska.

According to Jay Butler, State Medical Officer, the drug discovered contained a lethal amount of fentanyl.

Recently Juneau Police arrested an individual for driving under the influence of drugs. During the arrest, police discovered a pill that appeared to be a 30 mg oxycodone tablet. That pill was sent to the Alaska State Crime Lab, which just last week, revealed that the active ingredient in the pill turned out to be fenanyl.

According to the Department of Health and Social Services, fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiod that is similar to morphine, but is much more potent and can be lethal in very small doses.

"it can be deadly because it's a more powerful opioid," said Butler. "The person using the medication doesn't know it contains fentanyl, and of course these pills are manufactured in garage like facilities, so the medication may not be uniformly distributed throughout the batch of pills."

Although this is the first time counterfeit prescription tablets containing fentanyl have been discovered in Alaska, DHSS says other states have seen these type of pills for months.

"Economics is certainly a driver in this because fentanyl can be obtained cheaply and because it is so powerful," Butler said. "A small amount can potentially be cut and used to produce literally thousands of pills."

Across the country, authorities have discovered counterfeit medication containing fentanyl disguised as oxycodone, xanax and norco.