PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Erik Kilgore said he did everything with his older brother, James. But everything changed one day 4 years ago.
“I found my brother in his condo,” Kilgore told KOIN 6 News. “My brother passed away December 2018 from a fentanyl poisoning.”
He said James didn’t think that was what he was taking. He had battled with substance use, Erik said. “Mostly oxycontin, which was introduced to him through a wisdom teeth procedure.”
James was only 34 when he died.
“Little did he know, the coroner told me that he ingested 40 to 400 times the therapeutic dose of fentanyl in that pill,” Kilgore said. “He had no idea. He had absolutely no idea.”
After James died, Erik began an organization, Henry’s Uncle, to educate people about this problem. Henry is Erik’s son. James was his uncle.
One tool Erik talked about is the importance of having Narcan, which can be used to try and revive someone who has overdosed. Currently officers from PPB’s Central Precinct carry Narcan, and soon all officers will be equipped with it.
‘No demographic to this drug’
Lt. Chris Lindsey, who supervises narcotics and organized crime for the Portland Police Bureau, said fentanyl overdoses and deaths is a story they’re becoming all-too-familiar with.
“Most of the people we interview believe they are taking something else,” Lindsey said.
PPB was notified of 87 overdose deaths in 2020. That jumped to 113 last year. So far in 2022, PPB has been notified about 58 — and 27 of those are linked to fentanyl.
They’re seeing more and more teens taking pills they don’t realize contain the drug. In fact, 42% of pills with fentanyl contain a lethal dose.
“A kilogram of fentanyl contains half-a-million lethal doses,” Lindsey told KOIN 6 News. “It’s highly addictive and highly lethal.”
Earlier this year, two Portland Public Schools students died from taking blue fentanyl-laced pills, district officials said.
Lindsey said Portland is being hit hard by this problem — as are other major West Coast cities along the I-5 corridor.
“It’s deliberately being pushed by the cartels in Mexico,” he said. “The cartels learned they mass produce this extremely cheap and then make a ton of money off of it.”
The fentanyl is generally seen in 2 forms, either powder or counterfeit pills.
“They’re supposed to resemble oxycontin, but there’s actually just, they have a binding agent and they’re pressed with fentanyl,” Lindsey said.
The other issue, Lindsey said, is “there’s no demographic to this drug. We’re seeing this everywhere. It is across all demographics, socioeconomic status, geography. It’s literally everywhere.”
Measure 110 funds need to be released
In a Tuesday press conference, Mayor Ted Wheeler was asked about the epidemic of drug abuse in the city.
“We as a state do not have adequate treatment capacity for those with substance abuse issues,” Wheeler said. “For those who are dealing drugs, we need to arrest them and hold them accountable.”
The mayor said he’s pushing Gov. Kate Brown’s office and the Oregon legislature for more resources toward treatment since it has been slow to come since Measure 110 took effect decriminalizing hard drugs in the state.
“Along with the legalization of those substances was promised significant new drug addiction treatment resources,” Wheeler said. “Those resources have been slow to come online, so I have called on the legislature and the governor to demonstrate a commitment to getting those treatment resources online ASAP and release the funds that are being held as soon as possible.”
Over the last three years fentanyl-related deaths reportedly rose 108% locally. With that, Oregon continues to be ranked at the bottom when it comes to mental health problems and care.
Kilgore said action by the part of local and national politicians can’t come fast enough.
“There’s so many of us that just don’t want anybody else to experience the loss that we’ve experienced,” he said. “A senseless loss. We’re losing a whole generation right now.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and in need, visit Oregon Recovery Network’s website for treatment, detox, housing and support services.