Dangerous batches of narcotics — apparently heroin laced with the painkiller fentanyl threatened the lives of at least 74 people on the West Side of Chicago between Tuesday and Thursday this week.
Chicago Fire Department paramedics have responded to 74 cases in 72 hours, according to Larry Langford, spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department. “It’s up significantly,” he said.
Dr. Steven Aks, Chief of Toxicology and an emergency medicine physician at Stroger Hospital, said he’s aware of nine patients who were treated by Thursday afternoon at the county hospital. Dr. Aks did not confirm what drug caused the overdoses.
“We don’t know if it’s the beginning, middle or end of the surge.”
— Dr. Steven Aks
The DEA is investigating the source of the drugs. Authorities so far have said the drugs were bought at two locations on the West Side. A sample of heroin recovered by Chicago police may have contained fentanyl, authorities said.
Fentanyl is approximately 40-50 times more potent than pure heroin, and 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl has a propensity for the ability to dissolve in fats, oils, and lipids, which facilitates crossing membranes of the Central Nervous System.
In some of the cases an extra dose of Narcan heroin antidote was necessary to treat some of the recent patients.
Paramedics and other Fire Department personnel have since been equipped with extra kits of Narcan — a heroin antidote drug typically used to reverse heroin overdoses. Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is now equipped in many suburban police cars because police officers are often first on the scene in the critical first few minutes of a heroin overdose emergency, which causes respiratory and cardiac arrest.
A man was found dead of an apparent overdose in a third-floor apartment Thursday night in the 3300 block of West Ohio Street near Spaulding Avenue in East Garfield neighborhood. Police are investigating whether ingested narcotics from the dangerous batch were the cause of his death, according to law enforcement sources.
Previously in the mid-2000s Chicago police and federal investigators investigated fentanyl when dozens of people died of overdoses, after fentanyl was mixed with other drugs.
— Global Calgary (@GlobalCalgary) September 30, 2015
— Caron Treatment (@CaronTreatment) September 23, 2015
My motion: K-12 strategy to educate students/parents passed! Edmonton Catholic Schools to implement fentanyl strategy http://t.co/ZDRhlFXyVh
— Marilyn Bergstra (@marilynbergstra) September 22, 2015
Heroin and fentanyl overdoses are a significant problem in Manatee County Florida south of Tampa. In the 12th Judicial District, which includes Manatee, Sarasota and Desoto counties, there were 51 fentanyl deaths, 48 heroin deaths and 51 cocaine deaths in 2014, according to a report released by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. The majority of deaths caused by all three of those drugs was in Manatee County.
In the entire state of Florida there were about 50 heroin-related deaths in 2010, and 447 heroin-related deaths in 2014. Fentanyl deaths jumped from 200 fentanyl-related deaths in 2010 to 538 in 2014.
Total prescription drug-related overdose deaths increased slightly in Florida from 4,582 in 2013 to 4,774 in 2014. Florida has been a known location of pill mills, where the state passed legislation in 2010 requiring the rogue pain management clinics to register with the state and be owned by doctors.
However, Pill Mills led by doctors are known to have doctors that write over 30,000 prescriptions per year, and also receive lucrative kickbacks disguised as speaking engagement payments from pharmaceutical providers.
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