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‘We’re encountering it everywhere’: Portland police share prevalence, dangers of fentanyl amid rising overdose deaths

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 5:48 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The Portland Police Bureau narcotics lieutenant believes fentanyl is fueling more overdose deaths in the city.

It’s a drug so powerful that the amount that fits on the tip of a pencil can be deadly, so sneaky that it’s impossible to see the difference between legitimate and laced pills, yet so prevalent that Portland police are dealing with it all the time.

“We’re seeing it across all demographics, all socioeconomic statuses, all geographies throughout the City of Portland. We’re encountering it everywhere,” PPB Narcotics and Organized Crime Lt. Chris Lindsey said.

He said criminals are pushing fentanyl because it’s extremely cheap, fake pills can be made with it en masse, and it’s highly addictive.

Lt. Lindsey said a large part of their work is interdiction, using information to target loads of drugs before they make it to Portland, and he said says now almost always those loads include fentanyl.

“We get information that hey there’s hypothetically two pounds of methamphetamine coming up I-5 we’ll take that methamphetamine off and almost guaranteed there’s gonna be a couple thousand pills with it. It’s being pushed along with the more traditional hard drugs that you see on the street.”

But what makes fentanyl especially dangerous is that it’s being sold as a fake version of another drug; someone may think they’re buying Percocet online for example but it’s really fentanyl.

Police suspect accidental fentanyl overdose is what killed two Portland high school students last month.

Lt. Lindsey said fentanyl seems to be fueling an increase in overdose deaths overall.

“We’ve had a few overdose cases this year where the person OD’d on only half a pill,” he said.

In 2020, his unit was notified of about 80 overdose deaths, 133 in 2021, and already in 2022, he said there’ve been 40 overdose deaths.

The officers determine which ones to respond to and follow up from there.

“We have investigative methods that we use and we have a team that we work with to work back and try to find out who the supplier is.”

They also share trends with the overdose emergency response regionally to help inform the community on this issue.

“It is something we’re all gonna have to work together to try to address because it’s a very large problem in our city and our country,” he said.