LINCOLNTON, N.C. —  Imagine a packet of sweetener, used to sweeten your coffee, but the small contents inside are deadly enough to kill 500 people two to three times over. That is how Deputy Gordon Killian describes fentanyl, a synthetic opioid taking over the drug scene in North Carolina and nationwide. 

What You Need To Know

  •  Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times deadlier than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration
  •  DEA administrator Anne Milgram calls fentanyl "the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered"
  •  Law enforcement is battling to keep it off the streets because it does not have a strong odor
  •  Lincoln County Sheriff's Office now has the help from its newest K-9s licensed to specifically sniff out fentanyl

"It is a huge problem right now, and it is very dangerous, and we are seeing it everywhere in North Carolina," said Killian, who works in the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration calls fentanyl "the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2021, 68,000 people died in the U.S. from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, compared to 2,600 in 2012. 

In its October 2022 report, the DEA says, “Consistent with overdose death data, the trafficking, distribution and abuse of illicitly produced fentanyl and fentanyl analogs positively correlates with the associated dramatic increase in overdose fatalities."

Law enforcement is battling fentanyl because it is so dangerous, and it doesn't have a strong odor like marijuana. 

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office has two new K-9s, Deputy Gamora and Major Treadstone. They are track dogs and, according to deputies, are the only two K-9s in the state licensed to sniff out fentanyl. 

“So for us to have the ability to help with missing persons but at the same time battle opioid and the narcotic issues, that’s invaluable to have for a sheriff’s office," Deputy Jake Starnes said.

The addition of the K-9s was thanks to a donation from The Treadstone Group and owner Ross Bulla.

Deputy Gamora is a German short-haired pointer, and Major Treadstone is 2-year-old silver lab. 

“We are seeing more, or more of the people we are arresting are saying they are using it or finding it, he actually has found fentanyl to the suspect's own admission that it was fentanyl," Starnes said. 

Sheriff Bill Beam said, "We are creating the K-9 team to make it safer for Lincoln County citizens in the battle against illegal drugs."

Both K-9s were trained at Highland Canine in Harmony, North Carolina. The Timken Company and Walmart also donated equipment for the handlers and vehicles. Dog Supply in Denver donated toys and food to help get the program started.