Officials warn about fentanyl-laced drugs

Tribune Chronicle

WARREN — After preliminary data from 2017 showed an increase in fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths, including deaths involving cocaine and methamphetamine, the Ohio Department of Health has issued a recommendation to administer naloxone, an opioid reversal drug.

April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said the ODH is encouraging first responders to administer naloxone if it appears someone has overdosed even if heroin / fentanyl isn’t at the scene or is not something the person typically uses because fentanyl has been showing up in cocaine / crack and causing overdoses.

She said the trend is prevalent in Trumbull County as well, according to her data and the Trumbull County Coroner’s Office.

Preliminary 2017 data indicates that 71 percent of all unintentional drug overdose deaths in Ohio involved fentanyl or a fentanyl analogue. By comparison, 58 percent of overdose deaths did so in 2016, 37.9 percent in 2015, 19.9 percent in 2014 and 4 percent in 2013, a news release from the Ohio Department of Health states.

When the ODH released the 2016 Ohio Drug Overdose Report in August, the report noted an increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths, 55.8 percent of which also involved fentanyl or an analogue.

Preliminary 2017 data indicates that in 22 percent (850) of all overdose deaths, cocaine and fentanyl or its analogues were both mentioned on the death certificate, compared to 15 percent (619) in 2016 and 8 percent (239) in 2015.

Additionally, overdose deaths in which both fentanyl and methamphetamines/other psychostimulants were mentioned on the death certificate increased 142 percent from 2016 (117) to 2017 (283), the release states.

People who use illicit drugs and who are not familiar with the risks, such as those who use cocaine occasionally, are at exceptionally high risk of an overdose when using cocaine mixed with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a schedule II synthetic painkiller approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. It is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.

However, most cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally manufactured fentanyl, which is often mixed with heroin and / or cocaine as a combination product — with or without the user’s knowledge — to increase its euphoric effects, the ODH release states.

Even though naloxone is not effective in treating drug overdoses caused solely by stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines, the administration of naloxone may be helpful in drug overdoses caused by a combination of stimulants and opioids like fentanyl and its analogues.