AUSTIN — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed nine state agencies to increase their anti-fentanyl efforts as the crisis grows.
In a letter sent Tuesday, Abbott said that while state law enforcement is working diligently to limit the pervasiveness of the drug, more needs to be done.
“Fentanyl’s potency and deceptiveness, combined with the federal government’s unwillingness to take border security seriously, pose a grave threat to Texans,” the letter said. “We must take all appropriate actions to inform Texans of this danger and prevent additional deaths.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical and illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Both are considered synthetic opioids.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, often proving lethal with as little as 2 milligrams. It is approved for treating severe pain, especially after surgery and for advanced cancer pain and is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States.
Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is available on the drug market in different forms, including liquid and powder, and looks like many other drugs. The CDC reports it is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and made into pills that are made to resemble other prescription opioids. The CDC said in its liquid form, IMF has been put in nasal sprays, eye drops and dropped onto paper or small candies.
“Although fentanyl is a growing problem across the state, we have been fortunate here in Palestine where we have not encountered Fentanyl much on our streets,” Palestine Police Chief Mark Harcrow said.
“Typically when we encounter fentanyl, it is in prescription form, such as patches, where it was unused and it got into the wrong hands. Fentanyl is a huge problem in the bigger cities and I am sure we will begin to see it more here in the rural areas as time goes on. We will continue our efforts in drug interdiction, while working with other agencies to remove all dangerous drugs from our streets.”
“Drug abuse crosses all demographics in our state and county,” Sheriff Rudy Flores said. “However, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office has not seen a high incidence of fentanyl in our encounters. It is my recommendation all parents should be wary of it, and all drugs, making sure their children recognize the potential lethal risks of illicit drug abuse. We have received warnings of some pills and marijuana being laced with fentanyl, but do not have a documented recovery. We cooperate locally with the Palestine Police Department, and the Texas Department of Public Safety on drug and major investigations to enhance our efforts to make our community safe.”
Texas has seen an 89% increase in fentanyl-related deaths between 2020 and 2021, with an estimated 1,672 deaths in 2021, compared to 883 in 2020, per state data. In 2018, Texas reported 214 fentanyl-related deaths, it said.
“It has become clear that fentanyl is impacting individuals with and without substance use disorders,” Abbott said.
Abbott asked the following state leaders to ramp up efforts to combat the addictive opioid:
• Texas Education Agency
• Health and Human Services Commission
• Department of Family and Protective Services
• Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
• Texas Department of Criminal Justice
• Department of Public Safety
• Department of State Health Services
• Texas Juvenile Justice Department
• Texas Workforce Commission
He said relevant agencies should begin coordinating efforts to raise awareness of fentanyl’s lethality and prevalence by informing residents of “the full dangers of fentanyl.”
He also asked that they be prepared to outline statutory changes, budget priorities and other initiatives that will enhance the state’s ability to combat the epidemic, ahead of the next legislative session, scheduled to begin in January.
“Together we can help bring awareness to the threat posed by fentanyl and do our part to address this crisis,” Abbott said.
Should you encounter some one you think might be overdosing, the CDC advises you to call 911 immediately and administer naloxone if available. Try to keep the person awake and breathing; lay the person on their side to prevent choking and stay with the person until emergency assistance arrive.
Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoes and save lives. Many pharmacies in Texas allow you to purchase generic naloxone over the counter without a prescription to keep on hand in the event of an emergency.
In September of 2021, Texas enacted the Jessica Sosa Act which protects people from being charged with a drug-related crime if they are the first person to call 911 for help for an overdose. They must stay at the scene until help arrives and cooperate with emergency, medical and law enforcement personnel.