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Opioid alert! - Jamaica law-enforcement officials keeping watch as outbreak spreads across the US

Published:Friday | July 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Oxycodone is the generic name for a range of opoid pain killing tablets.

With an opioid epidemic sweeping across the United States, Jamaica's narcotics police are on alert for persons who might want to illegally import some of these drugs into the island.

Head of the police Narcotics Division, Senior Superintendent McArthur Sutherland, says the cops and the Customs Enforcement Team are particularly paying attention to the drugs Fentanyl and Carfentanil to ensure that they don't make their way into the island.

"The work of the narcotics police and the customs agents is key, as it will make sure the opioid epidemic that has killed hundreds in the United States does not find roots in Jamaica," said Sutherland.

He told The Sunday Gleaner that the recent arrests of 21 nationals from the Dominican Republic who were on a vessel illegally in Jamaica's territorial waters proved how easily the drugs could make their way into the country.

Opioid drugs were recently discovered in the Dominican Republic, and Sutherland believes the only way to keep it out of the hands of Jamaican citizens is to make sure they never get past the strong security arrangements at the country's ports.

"Our ability to stop this from happening is our collective collaboration, because the authority on the port is primarily the customs and the customs enforcement team. The narcotics arm of the force is supporting their efforts. We work in tandem to keep contraband out of our country," said Sutherland.

"We are resolute in our duties and will not relent, as these particular drugs have the potential to decimate our people and the already strained security and health apparatus," added Sutherland.

The opioid epidemic is claiming as many as 91 lives daily in the US as scores of persons abuse prescription medications used for pain relief and other drugs.

Fentanyl is a potent, synthetic pain medication, with a rapid onset and short duration of action.

Carfentanil, unlike other morphine derivatives, does not lead to addiction. It is too powerful for humans who have not developed a tolerance to strong narcotics like heroin or Fentanyl.

Even for people who have struggled with addiction to powerful narcotics, a dose of Carfentanil, the size of a grain of salt, can rapidly lead to an overdose and death.

Carfentanil is an odourless white powder that looks like other drugs illicit drugs found on the street, including cocaine and heroin.