Illicit, lab-made fentanyl has spread into the Midwest with a deadly force. The unforgiving opioid is killing people at a much higher rate than other commonly abused drugs.
Fentanyl is used legally to ease the chronic pain of cancer patients, but now is being made illegally in makeshift labs in China and elsewhere and trafficked in South Dakota where it has caused many overdoses and deaths. Fentanyl and its byproducts, known as analogs, are up to 100 times stronger than morphine. The powders are often mixed with heroin to create a cocktail that can kill even the most seasoned drug users.
Police and others who handle the drug can be sickened just by touching it, leading to procedural changes among police agencies across the state.
South Dakota News Watch reporter Bart Pfankuch examines the deadly consequences of this drug's growing footprint in the state.