Originally developed as a very strong pain reliever, fentanyl is now being mixed with heroin, with deadly results.
“Sadly we’re seeing an increase in heroin and fentanyl deaths now, because I think it’s related to the amount of fentanyl and the strength of heroin that’s out there right now,” said DuPage County Coroner Dr. Richard Jorgensen.
Medical fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, and 100 times stronger than morphine. But illicit “designer” versions of the drug can be even more potent.
“So now you’re talking about something that may be 2 or 3 or 400, even one out there that’s rated 6,000 times a dose of morphine. So the ability to titrate that or to take the proper amount becomes impossible,” said Dr. Jorgensen.
Proper measuring is further complicated by the unregulated manufacturing of illicit fentanyl.
“You’re not going to have those safety controls, you’re not going to have that oversight and supervision like you do in an official laboratory, so automatically you’re not going to be able to control the purity of the drug, you’re not going to be able to control the consistency of the dosing, not going to be able to protect against,” said Dr. David Lott, Medical Director of Addiction Services at Linden Oaks.
And it’s taking its toll on our community. So far this year, Will County has had 24 opiate related overdoses, with fentanyl present in four cases. A 31-year-old Naperville man was on of the victims.
DuPage County has seen an even higher count.
“The most current number that we have is as of April 10, 2016, we’ve had 17 opiate related deaths, and eight of those had fentanyl or fentanyl designer fentanyl’s or analogs in the system as well. So literally half of the opiate deaths we’ve seen this year, have fentanyl in the toxicology,” said Dr. Jorgensen.
That may be because many users are unaware of the added danger.
“What I worry about especially with the illicitly produced fentanyl is that sometimes people don’t know they’re getting it. So they may think they’re getting heroin when in reality they’re getting something much stronger,” said Dr. Lott.
But for current users there is hope. The Naperville Police Department’s “Connect For Life” program aims to get opiate addicts the help they need, rather than incarceration. Users must go to police headquarters or call and ask for help.
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.
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