KSNF/KODE — Latest statistics show more than 100,000 people nationwide are dying due to drug poisoning, and nearly 67 percent of that is because of fentanyl.

We spoke with retired DEA special agent and former Joplin Police Officer, Brian Townsend about the issue today (Wednesday).

He’ll be part of a Joplin town hall event tomorrow (Thursday) surrounding opioid and fentanyl use in our community.

He tells us noticeable levels of fentanyl were discovered in heroin use back in 2013.

It’s fully synthetic — more potent — and cheaper to make, using chemicals mainly produced in China and India.

By 2016, overdose deaths significantly increased, mainly because of the addition of fentanyl in cocaine, meth, and heroin.

But Townsend says the biggest threat — is counterfeit pills.

“If there’s a pill, there’s a counterfeit for it, period. And, we know now, through DEA lab testing, that about 6 out of 10 counterfeit pills contain at least two milligrams of fentanyl. And, we consider two milligrams of fentanyl a lethal dose. Two milligrams is not much. It’s literally just a few granules of salt or sand, and that’s why it’s killing folks,” said Brian Townsend, Retired DEA Special Agent.

Townsend also points out that because younger people often experiment with drugs, the mortality rate among young people is much higher.

They may try a drug for the first time, but it also has fentanyl in it, and many are then dying from first-time use.

He adds opioid use is now the leading cause of death for people between 18 and 45 years old.

That’s a greater chance than even a motor vehicle crash.

A Prescription Misuse and Fentanyl Town Hall hosted by The Alliance of Southwest Missouri is at 6 pm tomorrow (Thursday).

It’s a community conversation and will be held at the Cornell Complex Performance Hall. It will be aired live on KSN16.

Brian Townsend will speak, as well as several other panelists who have witnessed firsthand how opioid and fentanyl use has affected our community.

We will also stream the event on our website. (Fourstateshomepage.com)