Front line drug fighters call attention to opioids

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Officials on the front line of fighting the proliferation of heroin in Southern California came together Thursday to raise awareness in curbing the emerging trend of heroin-like opioid abuse, and particularly the abuse of Fentanyl.

Agents working for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation joined officials at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department Thursday afternoon for a press conference.

“With the help of the DEA, we are getting together to tell people why it’s important to know about opioids and help them learn about the problem,” James Pasules of the DEA’s Community Action ALERT team told The Signal Thursday prior to the conference.

One particular troubling trend witnessed by the coalition is the nationwide trend among heroin users to cut – or mix – heroin with the heroin-like drug Fentanyl.

Local drug detectives warned the SCV a year ago that the introduction of Fentanyl would only compound the pervasive drug abuse epidemic.

Recently retired Investigator Bob Wachsmuth, who worked with the Juvenile Intervention Team of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, issued the caution in May 2016, the day after the fourth SCV person died of an apparent drug overdose.

Among the more disturbing trends seen by the J-Team in local abuse of drugs is the number of times heroin, an opiate, is found mixed with other powerful illegal drugs, Wachsmuth said.

“What we’re seeing is heroin used with Fentanyl and mixing it with Xanax,” Wachsmuth said a year ago, calling the emergence of Fentanyl an alarming trend.

Experts in the last couple of days have made the same observations.

Researcher Al Hasson, of The UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Program, read about SCV’S rash of overdose cases in The Signal Tuesday, he called the newspaper about some troubling observations.

“What we are seeing more and more of is heroin being cut with Fentanyl,” he told The Signal. “People are using a substance that they are not familiar with and consequently there are more (overdose) patients.”

Tony Bell, spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger told The Signal Thursday, there is a coalition of county departments pursuing a program dubbed, Safe Meds LA.

“The coalition is addressing a complex problem of prescription drug abuse,” he said. “It is tracking and monitoring prescription drug use data.

“The bottom line is we need to increase the treatment of prescription abuse patients before they find themselves in an overdose situation.

“We have to help people get off opioids,” he said. “And, Supervisor Barger is going to make sure these measures are implemented.”

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