Eduardo Chávez said people should look at a sugar packet and look at the granules.

Chávez, a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Division, gave a presentation about the dangers of fentanyl Sept. 11 to the Trophy Club Town Council.

Those granules—two milligrams worth—can fit on a pencil point. Sugar packets weigh one gram, he said.

Those granules, as small as they are, can be deadly when they contain fentanyl. There’s enough fentanyl in that sugar packet to claim 500 lives, Chavez said.

Zooming in

Chávez leads the Dallas Field Division, overseeing DEA operations in North Texas that include offices in the Dallas-Fort Worth area along with Lubbock, Amarillo and Tyler, as well as the entire state of Oklahoma, with offices in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and McAlester, according to a news release on the town of Trophy Club website.

What you need to know

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin, Chávez’s presentation showed, and it can come in white powder and fake pills. Fentanyl can come in pharmaceutical forms, such as lozenges and patches. He said 90% of fentanyl arrives from Mexico and China, and the drug can be obtained directly from China through internet sales.

But fentanyl in and of itself is not inherently lethal, he said.

“Fentanyl is a legitimate medication when it’s used appropriately under doctor’s care,” Chávez said, noting it can be found in chronic pain relievers and as an anesthetic.

He discussed in his 23 years as a DEA agent, he has never seen an illicit drug as deadly as fentanyl, pointing out the minuscule amount needed to cause an overdose.

The details

Fentanyl can be found in pills and is being used by drug trafficking organizations in pill form because pills look familiar and are easy to transport and conceal, Chavez said, adding the appearance in pill form doesn’t look threatening.

Chávez emphasized fentanyl does not discriminate in where it can harm people, as it can be found everywhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“This is not an inner city problem; this is not a rural problem,” he said. “This is unfortunately a very equal-opportunity killer amongst diverse populations across the country.”

Chávez showed a video in which a security camera of a school building in Hays ISD, near Austin, showed two teen boys who dealt with a fentanyl overdose. They had stopped at the school, just after midnight one day in September 2022, to use fentanyl-laced drugs. In the video, one individual helped try to resuscitate the other individual outside the vehicle.

Emergency responders eventually arrived at the scene, and they were able to revive the boy, who had no recollection of what happened. Chávez said he understands the boy suffers from permanent cognitive damage that occurred because of a lack of oxygen in his brain for such a long period.

He said 108,000 lives were lost last year because of fentanyl. Another video Chávez showed depicted a woman discussing losing her son to fentanyl poisoning.

What else?

Chávez said in years past, parents did a good job of teaching their children that they should never take an open drink from someone or leave a drink unattended in a gathering, such as at a club, because the drink could be drugged. He said the same conversation needs to take place with fentanyl in that people should not take a drug from someone because a small amount of a pill can be deadly.

During questioning from the council, Chávez was asked about fentanyl’s presence in schools, and he said fentanyl exists in schools, and SROs are aware of the problems and what to look for. He said the biggest overall challenge is that a potential stigma exists about schools not wanting to get a reputation for being known as a place where fentanyl is an issue. He said education of fentanyl’s dangers is a good step in combating the problem.

What’s happening

Bobby Tillman, acting police chief in Trophy Club, said since 2019, there have been four arrests in Trophy Club for fentanyl possession. All the arrests were based on traffic stops. One arrest was in 2021, two were in 2022, and one was in 2023. None of the arrested individuals were Trophy Club residents.

Tillman talked about the education efforts in Trophy Club.

“One of the efforts we’re doing you witnessed at the recent council meeting,” he said in an email. “The other efforts involve the school resource officers in the middle school and high school educating the students about the serious dangers associated with fentanyl. And finally, through our community outreach with business and civic groups, we try to get the word out on the dangers of fentanyl.”

Also of note

Robbie Hoy, public information officer with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, said in an email fentanyl is pervasive, and in 2022, the Tarrant County Combined Narcotics Enforcement Team seized 1.5 kilograms of pure fentanyl.

“That’s enough for 1.25 million dosage units,” Hoy said. “That’s enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman and child in Tarrant County. There were also 95 felony arrests made. While there were other narcotics found when those arrests were made, fentanyl was found in almost all of those seizure operations.”

Hoy said there are many methods used by law enforcement to mitigate the influx of illegal narcotics into communities.

“Along with proactive enforcement by our team, Sheriff [Bill] Waybourn takes any opportunity he has to talk about the dangers of fentanyl, especially when talking to anyone [age] 18 or under,” he said. “Any time there’s an opportunity to post on social [media] about how dangerous this drug is, we take it. Educating people about fentanyl is one of the top priorities of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.”