Chicago DEA warns of deadly drugs at Lollapalooza

A terrifying warning from the Drug Enforcement Agency: deadly drugs will be at Lollapalooza.

"There's going to be people walking around with backpacks at Lollapalooza, that are going to be selling pills that are going to be laced with fentanyl. There's not a doubt in my mind," said Shane Catone of the Chicago DEA.

In a FOX 32 Special Report, the Chicago division's Deputy Special Agent in Charge says with the music festival comes experimentation, which may lead to deadly doses.

The DEA says with an event like this, it’s not a matter of if drug traffickers will be attending Lolla, but how many.

From the 1980s to now, the war on drugs has evolved.

"It just takes two milligrams of fentanyl to kill someone," Catone said.


Local, state and federal law enforcement fight fentanyl on every level from the streets to large events.

"Lollapalooza is like Christmas for drug traffickers," Catone said.

Lollapalooza attracts hundreds of thousands of music lovers every summer. With that, Catone says, comes curious youth looking to experiment and greedy drug traffickers hoping to capitalize.

"For a drug trafficker, that's a perfect market. You're gonna tell me you're gonna put everybody in one area and I can go and serve to these individuals here and I have the potential to addict 1000s and 1000s of people," Catone said.

Catone says they’ve found fentanyl in heroin, meth, cocaine — even marijuana. It’s 50 times more potent than heroin and can kill, even the first time.

"All it takes is one dosage, one dosage and you're dead. That's it. It shuts your system down. You stop breathing," Catone said.

While the DEA goes after drug kingpins and large-scale traffickers, it’s local departments finding the dealers. That’s the job of Aurora Police Lieutenant Greg Spayth and his officers with the Special Operations Unit.

"Containing and controlling and, you know, in moving different drug houses and you know, doing more of that street level stuff where with our relationships, we can now target it on all levels," Spayth said.

Spayth says in Aurora, the drug scene looks different.

"You'd see you drive through here and they'd be all over the place dealing drugs," Spayth said.

The dealing happens over the phone, via text or social media, and when a large event happens in the area, they see more movement.

"If you have a large event going on like that, you have an informant that brings forth information about certain amount of drugs being moved, then my guys and our team will switch gears and work on that," Spayth said.

Chicago saw close to 1,300 fatal fentanyl poisonings last year, and the DEA has seized 80,000 fentanyl pills since last October.

"I've done this job for 20 years. I've never seen, I can't distinguish between a fake fentanyl pill or a pill containing fentanyl — and one that doesn't. They're indistinguishable," Catone said.

A real oxycodone pill compared to a fake one — hard to see a difference.

"If you decide to use something, I would encourage you to not use alone. Using with people who are sober," said Dr. Maria Rahmandar of Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Rahmandar says they see numerous patients during lollapalooza and advises carrying the opioid antidote.

"Having your own naloxone could save someone else’s life or if you carry it around and let your friends and other loved ones know where it is, because you can’t use it on yourself," Rahmandar said.

Catone's advice for parents? Watch for disconnected or odd behavior and look out for a shift in friends.

He has this message for dealers.

"One of the things I can guarantee you as a DEA Special Agent, is that if you harm a child through an overdose, or you poison a child through an overdose, we're coming. We're going to find out who you are. We're going to arrest you and you're gonna be charged with a homicide," Catone said.

Dr. Rahmander says while they do see drug poisonings stemming from Lolla, they more often see alcohol intoxication and related injuries.