Crime & Courts

Summerlong drug enforcement effort results in major fentanyl seizure, troopers say

Anchorage Assembly special meeting homeless shelter and housing

Drug enforcement agents in Alaska seized nearly 5,000 grams of fentanyl as part of a targeted summerlong effort to prevent access to the drug that has killed hundreds of Alaskans over the last few years, Alaska State Troopers say.

Most of the fentanyl came from Mexico, troopers Capt. Andrew Gorn told reporters Tuesday.

A lethal dose of fentanyl can be just 2 milligrams, said Gorn, commander of the troopers’ statewide drug enforcement unit.

The seizures occurred between May and August, and involved multiple federal, state and local law enforcement agencies including troopers, the FBI and police departments around the state.

The agents seized a total of 212 pounds of illicit drugs including 22,441 grams of heroin, 22,865 grams of methamphetamine, 13,306 grams of cocaine and other narcotics, Gorn said.

The state’s increased focus on fentanyl was a response to data that showed Alaska last year experienced the largest increase in overdose deaths of any state by a significant margin. In 2021, 245 Alaskans died from drug overdoses compared to 146 in 2020.

The majority of those deaths were caused by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is most often found mixed in with other substances because of how cheap, potent and easy to produce it is.

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[Alaska saw a major spike in opioid overdose deaths. Naloxone is a key part of the strategy to prevent more.]

The devastation caused by fentanyl and other drugs in Alaska communities has been “especially apparent in our smaller villages, especially in central Alaska, and the Y-K Delta area, and in the Northwest Arctic,” Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell said Tuesday.

The communities that had the most drug seizures this summer included Anchorage, Juneau, Kodiak, Fairbanks and Ketchikan, according to troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel.

Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell Narcotics seizure

Annie Berman

Annie Berman covers health care for the Anchorage Daily News. She's a fellow with Report for America, and is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A veteran of AmeriCorps and Vista volunteer programs, she's previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in the Bay Area.

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