OSHKOSH — A group of law enforcement agencies known as the Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group (LWAM) got together Thursday to talk about fentanyl seizures, which the group says rose "4,400 %" in 2022.
LWAM reported seizing nearly 14 pounds of fentanyl and other substances laced with the drug, including one seizure of roughly 12 pounds of fake pills containing fentanyl last December.
Oshkosh Police Chief Dean Smith said that in his city alone last year, "we seized enough fentanyl to kill 51,000 people."
The massive increase in fentanyl cases has also caused prosecutors to seek harsher penalties than in years past for distributing the drug, according to Winnebago County District Attorney Eric Sparr.
“Often delivery-type situations especially with someone who had a prior record, the prison was a consideration," said Sparr, "now it’s almost automatic as far as our recommendation goes.”
For peer-recovery counselor LJ Volp—who works with Sparr's office—fentanyl is especially insidious because it can kill people in doses as small as two milligrams and is frequently added to both counterfeit prescriptions and illicit drugs, without the user's knowledge.
“Fentanyl is in every substance out there…" said Volp, "sometimes if I look at my comparison chart, with Xanax or Adderall, the fake one looks more real to me than the real one.”
Volp said that the availability of fentanyl test strips and especially the overdose reversal drug Narcan are key to saving lives.
She explains that if you come across someone you suspect is suffering from an overdose, the first step is to try and shake them awake and then administer Narcan nasal spray if you receive no response and call 911. She emphasizes that Narcan has no harmful side effects, but may require multiple spread over two-minute intervals with rescue breaths in between to reverse some overdoses.