The indictment this fall of two Park Cities residents in an alleged drug trafficking operation involving fentanyl, among other drugs, showed the area isn’t immune from the national opioid epidemic.
Texas, like the rest of the country, has seen a trend of rising opioid-involved overdose deaths in the last decade.
Specifically, deaths in Texas involving fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid developed initially for uses like pain management for those with cancer, tripled from 118 in 2007 to 348 in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In all, 2017 saw 646 deaths linked to prescription opioids.
“(Fentanyl) can be used out of the hospital setting with fatal results,” Dr. Kenneth Rothfield, of Medical City Dallas, said.
In response to the trends of increased opioid abuse, Rothfield said doctors are changing the way they use opioids because of the risk of addiction.
“(Doctors are using more) multimodal pain therapy and non-opioid therapy,” he said. “The opioid crisis has affected every (part) of our community.”
The indictments of Park Cities residents Gary Collin Bussell, 50, and Gina Corwin, 51, and eight others came after a Fairview man’s death in December 2018 was linked to the use of fentanyl and Alprazolam from the suspects, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas.
Bussell was described as the ring leader in court documents filed Nov. 6.
“(A task force officer’s) investigation revealed that defendant supplied the narcotics, which contained fentanyl, that resulted in the overdose death on Dec. 28, 2018,” the court filing reads. “(The officer) testified that defendant was aware of the fatal overdose (as well as other multiple non-lethal overdoses) associated with the narcotics he was distributing, but notwithstanding defendant and his drug trafficking organization continued distribution.”
Authorities estimate Bussell is responsible for the distribution of approximately 3,000 oxycodone pills per month and 2,000 counterfeit Adderall pills per month, records state.
Law enforcement also alleges he told others he intended to flee the country and made efforts to get a false passport, according to court records.
The defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, and those indicted in relation to the death face at least 20 years in prison if convicted, according to the indictment.
While trafficking in opioids has become a more significant issue, Drug Enforcement Administration Dallas division spokeswoman Elaine Cesare said despite this uptick, methamphetamine is still the most common illegal drug authorities see in North Texas.