Seizure of large amount of fentanyl leads to discussion of potential opioid dangers in GR


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Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

On March 22, federal drug agents seized over 40 pounds of fentanyl on its way from Grand Rapids to Metro Detroit.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the drugs are believed to have been manufactured in Mexico and the amount of fentanyl found was enough to provide a deadly dose to nearly everyone in Michigan. 

While the opioid crisis has not been extremely prevalent in Grand Rapids, as only 158 Kent County residents have died due to opioid overdose from January 2021 to December 2022, some professionals believe the danger of opioids and drugs pose a threat to West Michigan. 

Andrea Smith, the assistant director of Alcohol and Other Drug Services (AOD) at Grand Valley State University, said the opioid crisis may be inevitable for West Michigan.

“I don’t want to sound alarmist or like ‘Chicken Little,’ but I think it’s coming,” Smith said. “I think that what a lot of people that sell illicit substances are learning is that fentanyl is very inexpensive, and if you can get a hold of fentanyl, and you can add it to your substances, it makes them last longer. It tends to make people more addicted quicker.” 

Smith works with AOD to provide students with information and counseling related to substance use. She said the recent confiscation of fentanyl might not directly affect many students, but could still have an impact on them. 

“We don’t have a huge population of students on campus that use illicit substances,” Smith said. “But we may have a lot of students on campus who have friends or family that use illicit substances. So in the larger scheme, there’s a lot of students that could be impacted by fentanyl and find it fentanyl in the illicit substances that they’re using.”

Although AOD doesn’t currently have presentations on illicit substances, Smith said she wants to add education on street drugs and the risks of fentanyl mixed in with street drugs. 

GVSU student Abby Haney has worked in mental health and substance abuse assistance. She said the amount of fentanyl discovered was alarming and could potentially lead to future issues. 

“After learning how much fentanyl was found and that it’s so close to where I live is terrifying,” Haney said. “Even though it might not be that big of a deal right now in Grand Rapids, looking at other cities that have an opioid crisis, it’s hard not to be afraid that it could be coming here, too.” 

Haney said she thinks there should be more education on the effects of substance abuse and how dangerous these substances can be. 

“Opioids, just in general, which are highly addictive, and you can overdose on them very easily,” Smith said. “Fentanyl is even more so. It takes a very small amount. I think that’s why everyone is so scared, as they should be of it, because it doesn’t take as much so even if it’s in something that you’re using, it could still affect you.” 

Smith explained that testing for fentanyl is extremely important to accurately track fentanyl use in the area, even when it can be difficult to track drug sales.  

“It’s kind of hard to stop the spread of it (fentanyl or other drugs) or the sale,” Smith said. ”I mean, I think that they stumbled upon this particular drug bust in a way that I don’t think that they expected to.” 

Smith said in order to prevent the spread, Kent County officials should act as if the crisis is already here and work accordingly to prevent danger.