New study shows increased seizures of pills containing illicit fentanyl nationwide

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It all started when Richard Johnston was house-sitting for a family member. “I innocently went into a cupboard to get a tumbler to get some sweet tea and there was a prescription of Oxycodone and I was a curious teenager and I took some,” he said.

Before long, he found himself addicted to heroin.

“Somewhere along the way it slowly became fentanyl which resulted in me overdosing and requiring Narcan to be brought to consciousness seven times,” said Johnston. Sadly, stories like his are all too common.

Now new research found a dramatic spike nationwide in law enforcement seizures of pills containing illicit fentanyl between January 2018 and December 2021.

“That is a huge expression of what is happening right now in the country,” said Brian Sullivan, an executive board member with the Prevention Alliance of Tennessee. “If anybody doesn’t think that we’re in a crisis all they have to do is look at those numbers”.

Sullivan said prevention is key to combating the crisis, especially in Tennessee’s rural communities. “The bottom line for everyone is that you don’t know what’s in something when you take it off the street. If it’s not prescribed, it’s not regulated.”

As a certified specialist, Johnston is now at the forefront of the issue, using his own story to help others begin recovery. He founded Rosecrest Recovery Services and serves as director of family services.

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