Pictured, Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was created in a lab and is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Photo courtesy of DEA
Increase in fentanyl draws law enforcement concerns
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was created in a lab and is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S. and it has the San Marcos Police Department concerned.
Local law enforcement said San Marcos isn’t immune to the drug, citing its presence within the city.
“I would say it’s an issue because more than one person has overdosed from it,” said a pair of San Marcos narcotics officers who wished to remain unidentified. “Having at least one overdose in the city is problematic because now you know the problem exists.”
Chief of Police Stan Standridge said the city has seen 44 overdoses since January.
“They weren’t all deaths,’’ Standridge said. “And, because of the way it’s coded by EMS, you won’t know if it is specific to fentanyl, or if it’s heroin, or what.”
Standridge said a lethal dose of fentanyl can fit on the tip of a pencil, just two milligrams. How it gets into Texas and finds its way here is complicated according to law enforcement.
“A lot of it is produced in China and shipped to Mexico and then brought across the border. Some of it’s probably manufactured in Mexico and now in the US as well. It’s hard to trace exactly where it all comes from,” officers said.
But what they do know is that the drug is highly addictive and disguised often in valid pharmaceutical medication.
“Our distributors here, the local dealers, are getting it pressed in pill form. They’re pressing it in a valid pharmaceutical drug of some type — it could be something like Adderall or Tylenol,” officers said. “Drug dealers then add a little pinch of fentanyl and that’s where the problem begins. Plus, that pinch is different for every tablet and pill.”
The officers went on to say four out of 10 pills the DEA has tested — that they have picked up as a counterfeit pill with fentanyl laced in it — is a lethal dose.
Standridge said it’s important to know discount drugs purchased on the black market or over the border are not regulated so consumers won’t be sure what they are purchasing, let alone what it contains.
“You don’t know if there is fentanyl in the pill or tablet … you’re gambling with your life,” Standridge said. “Unfortunately, there are people that specifically buy it because they know it’s laced with fentanyl. They’re willing to take that chance, it’s like playing Russian roulette, to get that next better high.”
In a recent interview with officers, a dealer was asked if he was afraid he was going to kill somebody by selling the drug? Officers said he answered, “Somebody’s going to sell it to him.”
Making matters more difficult is the migration of people crossing the border from Mexico into Texas.
“I recently attended a high-level briefing with the Department of Public Safety and Customs and Border Protection,” an officer said. “[They] said everybody thinks the migration across the border is just about people. It’s about people. It’s about firearms. It’s about drugs. It’s about currency. It’s all of the above.”
It’s an entire package, he said but the focus is on the people when in reality there’s a “ton of stuff” coming across the border.
“What happens at the border happens in San Marcos,” Standridge added. “Aside from the potential terrorism threat, what we are seeing is that the people, the firearms, and narcotics are having an impact today in San Marcos.”
Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX-21) said there is literally no argument that “our open border” is not causing 1,000s of pounds of fentanyl to come through the southern border.
“It gets past Border Patrol, past DPS, to the streets and to our kids and causes death,” Roy said. “That’s not an arguable point, it’s fact. The only question that is a legitimate question is how much? How do we put our finger on the exact amount of damage?
He said the only real way to measure is to start and go backwards from the 107,000 people who have died as a result of this drug by overdosing or poisoning. He agreed some of the 107,000 are from continued abuse of meth or continued abuse of heroin or cocaine. Or overdoses of over the counter pills.
“But the massive spike we’ve seen over the last three to five years has been driven by fentanyl,” Roy added. “It’s been driven by the cartel profit making by moving human beings for profit, distracting Border Patrol, allowing them to move fentanyl laced products, usually in Xanax or Adderall or other things into our community, which is then resulting in the death of 1000s of Americans.”
Roy cautions his kids and other school age children, “One pill can kill.”
‘You don’t have to look any further than the Jake Ehlinger story,” Roy said.
University of Texas linebacker Jake Ehlinger died of an accidental overdose caused by fentanyl in May, 2021.
Roy cited another example of West Point Cadets in Florida who made some mistakes and were involved with some drug activity they shouldn’t have been.
“Then you add fentanyl in the mix and it’s consumed by somebody who’s in cardiac arrest and somebody that tries to help and they end up in cardiac arrest because they’re getting the transitive property and the fentanyl,” Roy said. “Suddenly you’re getting mass deaths, which the DEA has been warning the country about.”
He said fentanyl is prolific and it’s throughout our communities.
“We’re on the frontlines in Texas, and now it’s getting worse with how much it’s sticking in Texas,” Roy said. “It used to come through Texas and distribute a lot, it’s now sticking around and it is causing a massive amount of danger in Texas.
But the landscape for illicit drugs goes beyond fentanyl in San Marcos. Law enforcement is dealing with other substances like cocaine and marijuana.
“Marijuana is super prevalent locally and it’s not what folks were getting in the ‘70s, where it was three or four percent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” officers said. “Now you’re looking at well over 50% THC, a much more potent marijuana. THC is the chemical in marijuana. But it becomes even more pure as a concentrate, whether it’s in wax form or a vape pen. It can be up to around 90% pure THC and that’s a problem.”
Asked if there was a direct correlation between firearms and violent crimes with those who use and sell illegal drugs, officers said without a doubt.
“When I execute a search warrant on a drug dealer, I’m surprised when we don’t recover a firearm,” officers said. “It’s at least one gun almost every time.”
Standridge said San Marcos has seen a 36% increase in violent crime in just the last three years.
“In the last decade, there’s been a 90.1% increase in violent crime,” Standridge said. “It’s all going up at a remarkable trajectory. So, if we’re going to ultimately have an impact on violent crime, then we must make an impact on illicit drugs. There’s a natural correlation: drugs, money, guns.”