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Fentanyl remains top drug threat, DEA spreads awareness in Montana

David Olesky, DEA Rocky Mountain Division Acting Special Agent in Charge
Jackie Coffin
David Olesky, DEA Rocky Mountain Division Acting Special Agent in Charge

The fentanyl crisis is deepening across the country, including in Montana, as overdose deaths and drug seizures are skyrocketing.

Leadership from the Drug Enforcement Administration visited Montana last week to meet with families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl overdoses and shed light on the challenges of combating the use and trafficking of the deadly synthetic opioid.

"Fentanyl is now currently the number one drug threat that our nation is facing," said David Olesky, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Rocky Mountain Division, which covers Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

“A couple of years ago it was four out of 10 pills seized contained a potential lethal dose of fentanyl. Just this fall, our numbers came out one in seven pills. That is 70 percent of the pills that we've seized contained something that could kill someone," Olesky said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 112,000 Americans died in 2023 from fentanyl poisoning. 80 of those deaths occurred in Montana, which 1900% increase from 2017, when there were four confirmed deaths from fentanyl.

Along with overdose deaths, the Montana Department of Justice said it seized 398,000 tablets of fentanyl in 2023, which is a more than 100% increase from the year prior.

Olesky says Montana does present specific challenges from the DEA, mostly centered around geographic size and lack of law enforcement resources.

"There's no part of the state that's immune from this either," Olesky said. "So, certainly a lack of resources for our agency up here. It's not a limitless amount of funding nor agents or analysts."

The DEA is spreading awareness of fentanyl with its One Pill Can Kill campaign, and encourages parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of fentanyl as drug death rates for teens and young adults are also increasing.

"There are stories as sadly kids as young as 15 years old who took just one pill and died as a result," Olesky said. "This is not some drug just to experiment with."

You can find more about the One Pill Can Kill campaign here: