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Fort Smith/Fayetteville News | 5newsonline KFSM 5NEWS | Get the local news and weather where you live from 5NEWS. Covering Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville, and all of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Illegal fentanyl sales skyrocketing in the River Valley

Officials say much of what is sold on the black market is misidentified as common Xanax or hydrocodone.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Law enforcement agents in the River Valley are making a concerted effort to eliminate the selling and usage of illegal fentanyl.

They say much of what is sold on the black market is misidentified as common Xanax or hydrocodone.

“These pills mimic or look exactly like the brand named oxycodone or Xanax bars,” said Paul Smith, Drug Task Force Commander for Sebastian and Crawford Counties.

Fentanyl sales are not just in the more populated Fort Smith area but are moving to the more rural areas of Sebastian and Crawford Counties.

“It’s infiltrating out into the smaller communities as well,” Smith said.

For the past six months, local agencies have been going undercover to buy pills and get them tested at a lab. Smith says in years past, tests have come back as a mix of fentanyl and the original drug.

Now, almost all of the pill is fentanyl-based.

“So it looks like a oxycodone 30 mg pill but in fact, it’s pure fentanyl,” Smith said.

The effects of taking these pills could be devastating.

David Stoppel, Battalion Chief with Central EMS says overdosing is relatively easy because of the potency of the drug.

“It is so much more potent then let’s say morphine or any of the other narcotics,” Stoppel said.

Stoppel says it can be much worse when mixing fentanyl with other substances.

“You could have some respiratory depression, you could stop breathing from there once you stop breathing for a while maybe you could go into cardiac arrest,” Stoppel said.

Smith says the pills are coming from dark web purchases but also large cities like Dallas and Oklahoma City. He encourages people to use proper avenues when seeking medical treatment.

“Only ingest the pills that are prescribed by your doctor, gone through a pharmacist and given to you to be taken correctly for whatever ailment or treatment that you need that the pill for,” Smith said.

Stoppel says it's important for people to know to call 911 if you see someone overdosing, even if others around you are on an illegal drug. He says people cannot be charged for being on a substance when calling for emergency assistance.

For help with addiction, reach out to help.org