Christian Alan Acosta, who was arrested by police after a nerve-wracking pursuit through Pendleton, allegedly told police he was high on “Mexi pills” and methamphetamine. “Mexi pills” are slang for fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Federal law enforcement officials say that illegal fentanyl is primarily manufactured in Mexico. Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said that the illicit drug isn’t just dangerous to those who take it. It’s a threat to law enforcement and the general public.
“The danger associated with fentanyl is the ability for the drug to be absorbed through the skin and put somebody into an overdose situation pretty quickly, or it can become airborne,” he said.
While Acosta allegedly acknowledged he knew what he was smoking, some drug addicts are not aware. The Drug Enforcement Administration states that it is often added to heroin to increase its potency, which results in a rising number of overdose deaths.
Roberts said illegal use of fentanyl started in the northern Midwest, but it’s long since spread throughout the country and has become the drug of choice for heroin addicts.
“You know, the body builds a tolerance to a certain degree and to chase that dragon or seek the euphoria that was experienced the first time the individuals use the drug, they oftentimes look for much purer forms,” he said.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control reports that the number of deaths due to fentanyl overdoses has doubled every year from 2010 to 2016, primarily among adults aged 25 to 34.
Photo shows the actual size of a lethal amount of fentanyl (white powder to the right of the penny).