Monadnock Ledger-Transcript – Reality Check in Jaffrey invites DEA representatives to discuss illegal drug trends

Monadnock Ledger Transcript

Published: 01/10/2022 12:47:08 PM

Modified: 01/10/2022 12:46:17 PM

Brian O’Keefe, a public relations specialist with the US Drug Enforcement Administration and former Manchester Police officer, said he had seen the growing problem with opioids and, by the end of his career, saw the increase in the use of other drugs, such as methamphetamine, in the state.

“I’ve seen and seen firsthand what was happening in our community,” said O’Keefe.

Reality Check in Jaffrey, a nonprofit that provides drug, alcohol and other substance abuse services, hosted O’Keefe in a Zoom session Thursday to talk about the ongoing problem of substance abuse and addiction and how it is in small communities looks like.

And what it looks like, said O’Keefe, isn’t always what people imagine. For one thing, most street drugs are cut along with other drugs, most often with fentanyl – a much stronger opioid than prescription pain relievers or heroin, highly addictive and with high overdose potential.

“Fentanyl is mixed into everything,” said O’Keefe. “There are no two batches that are alike.”

There is also a trend, said O’Keefe, of squeezing drugs like heroin and methamphetamine into pills that mimic other prescription drugs like Adderall, Xanax or Percocet. Analysis of the pills seized by the DEA found that up to 26% of these pills contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

The pills can look legitimate, O’Keefe said, and by appearance alone there is no real way of distinguishing a fake pill from a real one that was prescribed by a doctor and obtained from a pharmacy.

From October to mid-December last year, the DEA seized up to 8.4 million counterfeit pills and 1,500 pounds of fentanyl powder. During the year, the DEA seized 20.4 million counterfeit pills – more than the last two years combined. Counterfeit pills have been identified in all 50 states.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 4,777 overdose deaths nationwide in 2019 among adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 24, with the vast majority – 3,391 – attributable to heroin or other illicit opioids, and another 672 on common prescription opioids.

According to the DEA, there have been more than 100,000 deaths from drug overdose in the past year, with 64% of those deaths being due to opioids, mostly fentanyl. Another 28% involved psychostimulants, mainly methamphetamine.

O’Keefe said methamphetamine wasn’t a common problem in the state during his time in law enforcement, but because it’s cheap to produce, large producers have been pushing to increase its use in the northeast, and when he left the Manchester Police Department became it more and more common.

“It’s gross,” said O’Keefe.

Members of the Rindge Police Department, local recreation officials and other community members watched the call. Julia Chidester, program coordinator for the Peterborough Recreation Department, asked about those who work with children, what community members should look out for, or how to take preventive action.

O’Keefe said there was no substitute for simply being part of the children’s lives and speaking to them as mentors.

“You can’t start young enough,” said O’Keefe.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 extension. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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