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Dickinson Police notify public of overdose outbreak in southwest North Dakota

The Dickinson Police Department announced that Southwest Narcotics Task Force agents have discovered methamphetamine that is being laced with an opioid, possibly fentanyl. A recent string of narcotic overdoses in the Dickinson area has prompted the police to issue a public advisory on the outbreak.

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Southwest Narcotics Task Force agents have recently been discovering methamphetamine that is laced with an opioid, possibly fentanyl.
Contributed / Mike Hanel
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DICKINSON — Police Lt. Mike Hanel said a recent string of narcotic overdoses in the area has prompted the Dickinson Police Department to notify the public of a possible outbreak. Southwest Narcotics Task Force agents have discovered methamphetamine laced with an opioid, which Hanel said is likely fentanyl.

“The evidence collected at the scenes, and the symptoms of the victim were consistent with an opioid overdose,” Hanel said during a Friday phone interview with The Dickinson Press.

Fentanyl is the very potent synthetic opioid used as a pain medication and medically used for anesthesia. The drug is also being used illicitly as a recreational drug, sometimes mixed with heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines or methamphetamine, among other street drugs.

He noted that opioid laced methamphetamine seized in recent cases is generally clear and crystalline in appearance, but also contains pink or red particulate. Dickinson Police declined to comment on whether arrests have been made as a result of the recent overdoses, emphasizing that from a criminal justice perspective the department is more focused on punishing drug dealers than users.

“We've learned that prosecuting the user level that is really just struggling with an addiction, very seldom does the criminal process help them out. We find that more of a treatment approach is the best way to help them out of their situation,” he said. “On the other hand those who are dealing and distributing, that's where we focus most of our concentration of effort on getting them identified, arrested and prosecuted.”

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In the event of an overdose, residents are urged to call emergency services by dialing 911 immediately. North Dakota law allows for immunity from prosecution against bystanders who call for medical assistance, remain on the scene and assist first responders.

The recent outbreak comes less than two months after police alerted Dickinson residents of seizures of ‘rainbow fentanyl.’

Hanel explained how the dangers of drug use have escalated as fentanyl has become more widely available and, unbeknownst to most users, mixed with other illicit substances.

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A Dickinson Police Officer with his canine.
Contributed / Dickinson Police Department

“With the proliferation of fentanyl on the streets, it's turning out to be very lethal in most circumstances when people believe it's just their traditional product that they're used to. So we just encourage people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of an overdose, specifically opioid related overdoses,” Hanel said.

According to the CDC, fentanyl is approximately 50 times more deadly than heroin. The agency reported a total of 107,622 drug overdose deaths in 2021, a 15% increase from the previous year. The overwhelming majority of these deaths were from opioid use, as fentanyl continues to pour over America’s laxly guarded Southern Border. In North Dakota there were 131 drug overdose deaths in North Dakota last year, more than the state’s 101 traffic deaths in 2021.

Those with information regarding drug trafficking in the area are being asked to leave an anonymous hotline tip using the Badlands Crimestoppers Tip411 app; by visiting dickinsonpd.com/crimestoppers; or sending a text to 701-840-6108.

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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