PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – In two years, 49 people have died in Oregon because of a powerful opioid called Fentanyl.
According to Sgt. Chris Kenagy, a supervisor with the Drugs and Vice Division with the Portland Police Bureau, at least half of those deaths have occurred in the Portland metro area.
Data for Fentanyl-related overdose deaths won’t be available until March or April. In 2014, 24 people died because of Fentanyl and in 2015, 25 people lost their lives.
Kenagy says DVD has investigated six Fentanyl-related overdoses this year.
“Our main concern right now is the number of deaths that we’ve had, especially recently this year,” Kenagy says.
Fentanyl is a drug prescribed by doctors, but now abused by addicts. The drug can be 50 times more powerful than street-level heroin, Kenagy says.
Because of its potency, users are overdosing. Even the smallest amount too much of Fentanyl can lead to death, according to police.
“It doesn’t take much,” Kenagy says. “Most of these people are only taking one of these pills and are overdosing.”
The police bureau reports its drug officers are beginning to see approximately two packages a month come into the area from China and Europe that contain Fentanyl.
“Use is on the rise and seizures are on the rise,” Kenagy says.
Unlawful drug manufactures in China, Europe and Mexico have transported Fentanyl-laced pain pills into Oregon. Many times, the drug buyers and dealers may not even know that Fentanyl has been mixed into the pills.
“So people take a pill that they believe is an Oxycodone or a Xanax pill that they purchased illicitly and they’re overdosing because they don’t know Fentanyl is in it,” Kenagy says.
Investigators are finding new partners and strategies to break the addiction. Police and community outreach workers in many jurisdictions across the state are now carrying a drug called Narcan, which can be given as a nasal spray or a shot. The drug can reverse the potential deadly consequences of heroin and Fentanyl. It can bring back someone’s ability to breath during an actual overdose.
“We’re taking a multi-pronged approach the medical community the treatment community, us on the enforcement side as well,” Kenagy says.
Doctors in Oregon also now have new guidelines when it comes to prescribing opioids to treat pain so that more people don’t become addicted to pain pills.
Anyone with information drug overdoses is encouraged to call the Drugs and Vice Division at 503-823-0246.