The number of deaths caused by the synthetic drug fentanyl jumped more than 1,000 percent across the country between 2011 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Fentanyl is a purely synthetic opioid that is manufactured in a factory versus grown from poppy fields and cultivated that way. So it’s able to be produced in mass overseas or across the border and shipped in,” said Alliance to HEAL Co-Chair Dr. Chris Eberlein.
In La Crosse, the deadly drug has also made its presence felt.
In the county between 2013 and 2016, there were a total of five overdoses related to fentanyl.
In 2017 and the first half of 2018 that number jumped to 23, according to statistics from the La Crosse County Health Department.
“We’ve known as the prescription drugs have not been seen in overdose deaths as much, there has been a shift to heroin. And as heroin has been more difficult to obtain, it’s now shifted to fentanyl,” said Eberlein.
He says with a majority of overdoses involving fentanyl, people do not know how much of the deadly drug they are using at any given time because the fentanyl is laced in other drugs.
The sharp increase is leading health officials to look at methods on how to curb the problem, like using the narcotic overdose reversal drug Narcan.
“One we’re continuing to promote Narcan usage throughout the community. So distribution of Narcan, education on its use. But we’re also improving trying to distribute pocket masks for, basically, rescue breathing throughout the community because that’s the next step,” said Eberlein.
He says he was not shocked by the CDC’s report because of what he has seen locally.
He adds that this will be a battle that will have to be fought for years to come.