West Palm Beach police seeing an increase in fentanyl-related drug overdoses

Posted at 7:39 PM, Aug 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-26 20:08:02-04

 WEST PALM BEACH, Fla-- It’s been a sobering 7 months for Richard White.

“I’ve been a wreck. I just recently stopped crying every day,” said White.

In February, the love of his life, Nicole Smith White, died from a drug overdose. The couple had moved to West Palm Beach to get sober.

“For two addicts, it was nearly impossible,” he said.  

But the move only fed their addiction. That fateful day,  followed only a few months later.

Richard says they bought heroin, he believes it was cut with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate more than 50 times more potent than pure heroin.

“We knew one of us was going to die. It’s just such a powerful addiction,” said White.

However, it was Nicole that lost her life that day.

It’s something that is becoming more and more common in West Palm Beach.

“We’ve taken a much more aggressive approach,” said Captain Brian Kapper with West Palm Beach Special Investigations Unit. “The problem is, it is so addictive.“

Kapper says so far this year his officers have responded to more than 255 overdoses believed to be from fentanyl, often combined with heroin. Of those calls, 50 people have died.

“It increases the potency of the heroin and effectively what you have now is a poison that one dose it will kill you,” said Kapper.

This new trend is not only posing a serious risk to our community, but it’s putting these officers in danger.

Back in March, Agent Tom Walsh ended up in the hospital after a fentanyl contamination.

“I was feeling lightheaded, dizzy, tunnel vision. My upper body went numb,” said Walsh.

He was field testing evidence and believes he breathed in some of the fumes from the drugs.

Because there has been such a dramatic increase in these cases, the department has not only had to change the way it tracks the overdoses, but also the way it tests the evidence.

The department now uses special protective technology to test the drugs called a fume hood. The equipment sucks up any fumes or particles to avoid any future contamination.

For these officers, the focus remains on cracking down on the dealers and manufactures to get this deadly drug off our streets