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Drug overdose deaths quintuple on Minot

Photo from Metro

Drug overdose deaths in the Minot area increased more than five times in 2020 over last year and police said many of the overdoses could be attributed to the lethal drug fentanyl.

“Often, opiate users purchase the drugs under the false pretense that they are receiving heroin or Oxycodone,” Minot Police Department Capt. Dale Plessas, investigations and records commander, told The Minot Daily News in September. “The only way for drug users to protect themselves is to stop using.”

As of Dec. 17, there had been 90 overdoses in Minot and 16 overdose deaths, Plessas said. In 2019 there were 31 drug overdoses and three overdose deaths. Again, Plessas said “the emergence of fentanyl in our area has been the major contributing factor in this alarming increase.”

Fentanyl is reportedly up to 50 times more potent than heroin. In some cases, even the dealer doesn’t know that he is dealing a lethal drug.

“I thought it was heroin but the lab said it came back positive for fentanyl,” one defendant told a judge in district court in Minot in October. The defendant said he had been dealing to support his own drug habit at the time. He was sentenced to three years in prison for delivery of fentanyl.

Those who have lost loved ones to overdoses have described the devastation in court or in painful phone calls to The Minot Daily News: one accused dealer described in a letter to the court how her spouse overdosed and died in her arms not long after they were married; a mother whose daughter was another overdose victim is begging for more local treatment options for people who are battling a drug addiction.

Over the past year or so, several alleged dealers have been arrested with large amounts of fentanyl in their possession. In a number of cases, the dealers are from Michigan and have teamed up with people living in North Dakota to distribute the drug in the Minot area and on North Dakota reservations, according to court documents. Federal court documents describe the scourge of fentanyl on reservations, where it has also been implicated in overdoses.

A typical scenario in many of the cases this year was for a dealer to arrive in Minot on the Amtrak train, then be picked up at the station by a North Dakotan and be arrested after law enforcement officers followed the vehicle, stopped it and found the suspects in possession of large amounts of narcotics.

Amtrak police routinely tip off state drug task forces about the apparent trafficking of narcotics. Detroit is a major hub for narcotics and Minot, though smaller, is also considered a hub.

Some of the defendants have been charged in state court and other cases have been transferred to federal court.

Most of the cases charged in 2020 are still pending.

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