LIVINGSTON — It was less than a month ago that Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested a man and seized over three pounds of fentanyl during a drug bust in Albany. It was one of the largest fentanyl busts in the parish, and it involved a drug that wasn’t on law enforcement radar five years ago.
“Within the last two years, it’s really picked up,” said Cody Jarreau, a sergeant with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office narcotics division. “We’re starting to see it in everything.”
While three pounds may not sound like a lot, when it comes to fentanyl, as little as a milligram can be deadly, Jarreau said.
“It’s definitely a win for us to get a large-level distributor like that off the streets,” Jarreau said. “And do we believe there’s more? Yes. We’re working diligently every day, day in and day out, to try to make bigger or equal seizures.”
‘Single deadliest drug threat’
LPSO and other agencies across south Louisiana are not just seeing straight fentanyl. They’re seeing other drugs laced with the deadly opioid. Drugs like marijuana or even vapes can be infused with fentanyl and have deadly consequences.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is now the leading contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the United States.
“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered,” said DEA administrator Anne Milgram. “Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison.”
Fentanyl has become the primary cause of death for Americans under 50, surpassing other factors such as heart disease, cancer, homicide, suicide, and accidental incidents.
‘A mission with God’
Dan Schneider knows all too well how drugs like fentanyl can change a life forever. The father turned activist helped gather evidence against a prolific pill mill doctor in the New Orleans area.
His story was the subject of the 2020 Netflix documentary “The Pharmacist.”
“It’s been a mission of mine over the past 20 years to talk to kids to discourage kids from doing drugs,” Schneider said. “I made this agreement with God, you might say, that I would go on a mission for him, discouraging kids from doing drugs. My family and I, for years, and my son, in a sense, has been trying to prevent family tragedies like what happened to my family, losing my son when he was 22 years of age. It totally messed up our lives, and we don’t want to see that happen to any other family.”
Schneider set out to work with law enforcement to solve his son’s murder. But he eventually set out on his own to put together the puzzle pieces of what happened.
“I quickly realized the stigma … of him being there buying drugs,” he said. “(Police) kind of treated him like they treated his killer. He was using drugs, but that’s not the same as killing someone. I wanted the killer off the street, and when I found police weren’t going to do it, I just became driven.”
“Like playing Russian roulette”
Eventually, Schneider found the killer and got justice for his son. He’s now working to erase that stigma and is working with police, the FBI, and DEA to stop pill mill doctors from writing prescriptions so easily.
Now he’s working to raise awareness of fentanyl since they are now cheaper than more regulated opioids like oxycontin. He’s speaking to schools, sharing his story hoping he can connect with a child before they start trying drugs. On Monday, he spoke during Livingston Parish’s SADD’s community awareness event about the dangers of fentanyl.
“(I tell them) if you try drugs, it’s like playing Russian roulette. All we can do is keep trying and see if we can bend the curve and make more people more aware.”
Fentanyl Awareness Day
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards proclaimed May 9 Fentanyl Awareness Day.