Rise In Narcan Use As South Dakota Battles Drug Crisis

KELO Cole Thompson

The United States currently faces the deadliest drug crisis in history.

Some of the most dangerous drugs, heroin and fentanyl, are now making their way into our community.

According to South Dakota’s U.S. Attorney, already this year there have been at least eight opioid overdose deaths in Minnehaha County alone.

This week Cole Thompson would have turned 22 years old and become a dad.

“He was very excited. He was very excited about it,” Cole’s Dad, Randy Thompson, said.

Instead his own dad is writing thank you letters to those who attended Cole’s funeral.

“I’m shocked and angry. I still holler at him. I’m angry,” Randy said.

On April 24 Cole didn’t show up to work. When his family went to check on him, he was in his bedroom, dead from a fentanyl overdose.

“People think you find your child just dead. It was a horror scene,” Randy said.

Sadly, this story is becoming all too common across the nation and now in South Dakota. Already this year there have been eight deaths in Minnehaha County alone.

“It’s unprecedented–the number. Many of those are related to heroin or fentanyl or a combination,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.

That combination can be especially dangerous. Some victims think they’re getting heroin. Instead it’s laced with fentanyl or even carfentanil .

“Carfentanil is ten thousand times more potent than morphine. Now you’re talking about something that is almost the size of a grain of salt that can cause someone to overdose and die,” Milstead said.

Just last month, drug enforcement officials in Kearney, Nebraska confiscated enough fentanyl to kill 26 million people. That’s right, 26 million.

“The people who are making what they’re selling on the street aren’t scientists. They’re not rocket scientists. They’re not chemists. They don’t have appropriate measures and devices to know exactly what the dose is. As such, people are dying,” Milstead said.

In order to better track and report overdoses, the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office now has a new real-time app.

“So we have a better baseline to understand how we’re impacting this crisis because it is a crisis,” Milstead said.

Deputies are also armed with Narcan, a life-saving drug used to reverse an opiate overdose. In Minnehaha County deputies only used Narcan three times in two years. That is until the last few weeks. Milstead says now they’re using it three to five times a week.

“We’re going in the wrong direction, but we’re mirroring what’s happing in America. It’s very concerning,” Milstead said.

Milstead thinks it will likely get worse before it gets better. Why? The coasts are dealing with a deadly epidemic.

“We’ve all done some crazy stuff, but this is just stupid. It’s insane to think you’re going to survive this. You’re going to die. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but you’re going to die,” Randy said.

A message Thompson wants to get out because even though he can’t bring Cole back, he hopes that by speaking out, he’ll make a difference.

“I know that whoever sold Cole the drugs didn’t intend to kill him, but they’re killing people,” Thompson said.

If you think one of your loved ones could be addicted to heroin or fentanyl, here are some warning signs.

Users usually have stomach flu-like symptoms when they’re going through withdrawal.

You also might notice relationship changes and a loss of interest in activities.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can get a free mental health assessment from Avera by calling 1-800-691-4336.

There are also several treatment centers in the area, including Keystone and Tallgrass.

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