Fentanyl isn’t a new drug, but there’s ample evidence that suggests illegal use is near, or at, an all-time high in the area.
The synthetic opioid is usually prescribed in the form of patches or lozenges that are 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular on streets across the U.S. due to its heroin-like effects.
Local public health officials and law enforcement agencies sounded the alarm last month on the issue, as they’ve seen a significant increase in the number of fentanyl-related overdoses and arrests since the start of the pandemic.
During the first four months of 2021, police and deputies responded to more drug overdoses and suspected overdoses than during this same time period in previous years in Bartholomew County.
One of the biggest issues with fentanyl is users aren’t always aware they’re putting it in their bodies. According to the FDA, fentanyl is increasingly being laced with other drugs, including methamphetamine, because it is cheaper and more powerful.
Since July, at least 422 people have sought treatment at the Columbus Regional Health’s Treatment and Support Center for substance abuse disorders, including at least 168 since March. Officials said that more than half of people seeking help for heroin abuse during this time have tested negative for it, but positive for fentanyl.
This past Wednesday, a motorcyclist was revived with naloxone by deputies with the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department after an overdose. The individual was also carrying methamphetamine on him when found unresponsive.
Dr. Kevin Terrell, TASC medical director, said that fentanyl is “really hitting our community hard” and that rises in overdose deaths can be attributed to it.
Additional staff are being hired by TASC to keep up with the demand for help, and more sober living homes are continuing to open across the area.
Hopefully the warnings will be heard and more individuals will get the help they need. Any fentanyl death is one too many.