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Fentanyl Linked to Quinhagak Deaths by Crime Lab

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller, is estimated to be 80 times as powerful as morphine and hundreds of times more powerful than heroin. It is often sold as fake OxyContin pills.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller, is estimated to be 80 times as powerful as morphine and hundreds of times more powerful than heroin. It is often sold as fake OxyContin pills.

Megan Peters reported in the trooper dispatch on Friday that the State Crime Lab revealed that the heroin that was seized in the small southwest Alaska community of Quinhagak contained more of the synthetic opioid Fentanyl than heroin.

The powerful synthetic opioid, 50-100 times stronger that heroin, caused three overdoses in the community on August 15th, one of which was fatal.

The overdoses came in quick succession. The first case was uncovered when a man was found unresponsive on the porch of a residence in the community. He was quickly medevaced after he was revived. As the aircraft was enroute to Bethel to deliver him to the hospital, another case was reported and the plane turned around and picked him up as well.  Then, within the next two to three hours, a 19-year-old teen, Jamie Roberts was found unresponsive. But, the aircraft had already reached Bethel by that time. 

Two hours of CPR on Roberts could not save her life. She was declared deceased at the community clinic. Her remains were sent to the State Medical Examiner’s office in Anchorage for autopsy.


Fentanyl abuse is rare in the rural communities, but abuse of the powerful synthetic is on the rise in the state as it is elsewhere in the nation. Abuse of the synthetic is not confined to the U.S. however, the Canadian province of British Columbia saw 300 overdose deaths, 25% of which were caused by the drug by last year. Canada is in the midst of a drug crisis with soaring overdose deaths across the country from the drug.

Fentanyl was also determined to be the cause of death for the rock superstar Prince in April of this year.

The Centers for Disease Control issued an alert to public health departments, health care professionals and first responders informing them of the increase in deaths acrtoss the country from the Fentanyl.

The drug has been issued to patients suffering from chronic pain, but, in recent years, the drug has been increasingly available through online purchases from China. The deadly drug has also been known to be manufactured in clandestine labs in many parts of the country.

The substance is usually laced with small amounts of heroin along with other inert compounds or is sold as fake Oxycontin. It can be smoked, snorted, or injected. 

The Alaska Bureau of Investigation is continuing to investigate Robert’s death.