Drug dealer Eric Reeder of Spearfish got word in January 2017 that one of his customers was in trouble after smoking the fentanyl that Reeder had sold him.
“I told you only to take one hit every 20 minutes,” Reeder texted to the 31-year-old man. But the warning came too late. The man had already overdosed and was found unresponsive by his mother.
He survived, but two other Spearfish residents who bought the fentanyl derivative from Reeder that month did not — a 38-year-old man and the 23-year-old mother of a young child both overdosed and died.
Across South Dakota, families have discovered in the worst way possible what law enforcement officers and medical examiners fully understand: that fentanyl and illicit fentanyl byproducts known as analogs are among the deadliest drugs in the world. And that they are now taking lives in South Dakota.
Fentanyl and analogs have caused thousands of deaths across the country because they are often made in clandestine labs by drug dealers, added into other drugs without users knowing it and because just a few grains of the drugs can kill when ingested or just touched. They are so potent and unstable that even veteran drug users can be killed on their first use.
“Fentanyl analog is the most deadly, dangerous, lethal substance ever made by mankind,” said John Fitzgerald, the state’s attorney in Lawrence County who prosecuted Reeder on manslaughter charges that resulted in a 16-year prison sentence in June.
Arriving with a vengeance
Officials say meth is by far the most commonly abused illicit drug in South Dakota and the Midwest. But the opioid fentanyl and its analogs have arrived with a vengeance that has led in part to a quadrupling