Foster talks about opioid impact at Rotary
Sherri Foster knows all too well the costs of illegal drugs. A longtime veteran of law enforcement from the local to the federal level including a stint with the Drug Enforcement Agency, she has been on the front lines of a long war against substance abuse of everything from marijuana to heroin, and all points in between.
Foster is now fighting on another front to curb the spread of narcotics, and to end an epidemic of overdoses happening because of the drug fentanyl.
The tactic that she is involved in now goes directly after those who are selling drugs and tie them directly to overdoses.
“It’s not a revelation to people that we’re having trouble with opioids,” Foster said. “In 2017, the President declared the opioid epidemic a national health emergency.”
She explained that set into motion her new role in helping the U.S. Attorney’s office investigate and prosecute drug dealers who are responsible for those overdoses by selling drugs that have been adulterated with fentanyl and carfentanyl in order to boost their effectiveness, but are so dangerous only tiny amounts can kill.
Cases like one she described in the Metro Atlanta area where a toddler died of an overdose after she accidentally got hold of heroin left out on a coffee table that was tainted with fentanyl.
Or another which saw a student from Georgia Tech die at a party not long after graduation at a party celebrating their roommate’s success, never knowing they were snorting heroin laced with the potent synthetic narcotic.
“In all my years, I’ve never been affected like I am affected now, because I deal with the parents,” Foster said. “The kids are buying this dope... and if you have kids I hope you talk to your kids about this and tell them don’t do it. Don’t smoke pot, don’t do dope. It sounds crazy, but generations today think pot is OK, but what you’re not realizing is you’re taking marijuana with something added. These traffickers really don’t care, they just add it.”
She added that it is specifically popular with heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine because of the intense high that comes from ingesting fentanyl or other synthetic narcotics.
“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent that heroin, and there’s a drug out there called carfentanyl that is even more potent then fentanyl,” she said.
Foster said many of the reasons why people get onto these drugs is that pain management in years past became much more focused on doctors proscribing narcotic-based pain relief medications, which then hooks users who move onto more potent forms as their tolerance for opioids grows greater.
So targeting those who use products like fentanyl in everything from laced heroin to faked Xanax pills sold illegally on the street is one way to combat the spread of such drugs, and to send a zero tolerance message to dealers.
The hopes are that as more dealers are prosecuted and held responsible for overdose deaths, the number of those deaths will start going down as the illegal market availability with fewer dealers goes down.
However, she reminded Rotary members that it is their responsibility to make sure their children and family members know the dangers of drug use, and to prevent them from doing if possible.
Foster also said for people to be more aware of the medicines they are taking and their potential for abuse, and properly dispose of medications when they are no longer needed.
Sherri Foster, a litigative consultant for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta and a longtime veteran of state and federal law enforcement, talked about the dangers of opioids and how she and others are trying to hold drug dealers accountable for overdose deaths.
State Rep. Trey Kelley stopped by the Cedartown Optimist Club to talk about the latest legislative session and his role as Majority Whip.