In Brevard County, Florida, police officers seized $100,000 worth of fentanyl and $81,000 worth of methamphetamines. Officers also arrested nearly 60 people as a result of a six-month investigation into a large drug-trafficking operation. Forty additional arrest warrants were issued.

While the suspects were arrested on charges of racketeering and drug-trafficking conspiracy, the exact hierarchy of the scheme was not disclosed by law enforcement. However, as the largest drug operation in the county, the investigation involved local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. According to Brevard County Sheriff, Wayne Ivey, the bust resulted in the seizure of, “…enough fentanyl to kill everyone in Brevard County.”

Originally developed for use in anesthesia for surgery, fentanyl is a powerful opioid painkiller. The drug is also used for pain relief in cancer patients who develop a tolerance to morphine and other painkillers.

Fentanyl is approximately 50 times more powerful than morphine or heroin. With the increase in opioid use, the prominence of fentanyl also rose. In 2017, doctors in Florida wrote 60.8 prescriptions for opioids for every 100 residents. In the same year, fentanyl accounted for over 28,000 overdose deaths in the United States, with fentanyl overdoses seeing the sharpest increase among all opioids. Police seized 1 kilogram of fentanyl in the Brevard County bust. A lethal dose of fentanyl is 2mg.

Both Florida’s governor and attorney general are pursuing legal action on all levels. The state resolves to address both the street crime and the corporations responsible for creating and heavily marketing these drugs without oversight, recall or recourse when the drugs were proven to have dangerously addictive and lethal potential.

Over the past two years, 172 people have died from a drug overdose in Brevard Country. In a news conference, governor Ron DeSantis and attorney general Ashley Moody stated they were, “…going after the corporations who caused the crisis, not just street-level dealers.”

The opioid crisis reached epidemic levels in the United States, and law enforcement is trying to combat the issue at both the national and regional levels. As of 2018, Florida state law requires doctors to check the state’s prescription drug monitoring program before prescribing an opioid and imposes three- and seven-day limits on acute pain prescriptions for these drugs.

Whether changes in the law successfully curb fentanyl prescriptions, synthetic forms of the drug pose an additional concern. Often mixed with other street drugs such as heroin or cocaine, illicitly manufactured fentanyl has been responsible for a recent increase in overdose deaths. As such, the source of the drugs seized in the arrests was not specified.

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