Fentanyl involved in majority of St. Louis overdose deaths
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The powerful synthetic opioid Fentanyl, which has been increasingly turning up in heroin and other street drugs, is behind a surge in St. Louis-area overdose deaths.
The highly potent painkiller is involved in nearly all of the opioid overdose deaths in and around St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
St. Louis County is on pace to set a record high in overdose deaths this year, according to Brandon Costerison of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The St. Louis region had a high of 760 opioid-related deaths last year.
Fentanyl was identified in up to 95 percent of the city of St. Louis’ overdose deaths, Costerison said. It’s well above the national average, where fentanyl was involved in nearly half of the country’s drug overdose fatalities last year.
“Fentanyl has taken over as the drug that is killing people here,” said Stephen Nonn, coroner for nearby Madison County. “When we go to a death scene and you still see the needle in the arm, we know it was fentanyl because it works that quick.”
Fentanyl can be unknowingly mixed and sold with heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines.
The opioid epidemic began with prescription painkiller abuse, and heroin became the drug most widely involved in overdoses five years ago. But now heroin users are overdosing on drugs that have been cross-contaminated with fentanyl, which is up to 100 times more powerful, Nonn said.
When someone with a heroin addiction unknowingly takes heroin cut with fentanyl, “the chances of dying from an overdose are tremendously increased,” he said.
Costerison said there isn’t “pure heroin in St. Louis anymore.”
“We don’t know if folks are intentionally knowing that this is adulterated, or if it’s a lack of quality control on dealers contaminating stimulants with a very, very potent opioid,” he said.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com