Considering that several people have died of fentanyl-related drug overdose in Cuyahoga County of northeast Ohio, the medical examiner of the county Thomas Gilson disclosed that the deaths were due to overdose of pills which were mistaken for Fentanyl, some of them looking much like the less-potent oxycodone tablets.
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Nineteen people died last month from overdose of the Fentanyl-lookalike, while 21 others died from heroin overdose. The fake fentanyl pills are produced in China and maybe Mexico, but largely finding their way into local drugstores in the United States.
"This is all the more alarming because this is a much more lethal drug being dressed up as another popular drug abused by the same population," Gilson said.
Like heroin, fetanyl is an opiate-based painkiller. Its legal uses include to help control pain for cancer patients, and to help keep patients sedated during open-heart surgery. Dr. Gilson estimates that fentanyl is 20-30 times more potent than heroin, and some Mexican drug cartels have started to mix fentanyl with heroin to make the latter stronger.
Fentanyl led to the deaths of five people in Cuyahoga Country in 2013, 37 deaths in 2014, and 89 deaths in 2015. In 41 of these cases, the victims mixed both fentanyl and heroin for use. The Ohio Department of Health reported that 83 fentanyl-related deaths occurred throughout the state in 2013, and it rose to 502 in 2014.
"It is far more devastating than heroin ever could be," says Jason Sebaugh, one of the lucky few to have overdosed on fetanyl and lived to tell about it, according to Fox 8 news.
For many first-time users, their first encounter with fetanyl can be their last. According to David Matia, Cuyahoga County's Drug Court Judge, "Usually, people who use fetanyl don't make it to drug court – it kills that quickly."
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Some addicts of the drug can be saved in time if injected with opioid antidote drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, and to this extent, about 166 fentanyl addicts were saved last year after being injected with the antidote. Dr. Gilson said several addicts are being saved with antidotes than are being reported to the media.