Wisconsin DHS warns of overdose death increase linked to drugs laced with fentanyl
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Health officials are warning Wisconsinites about an increased number of deaths caused by drugs laced with synthetic substances such as fentanyl.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services issued a public health advisory Wednesday to note the increase in deaths caused by the drug. The advisory sent out provides information for local health departments and providers to be more aware about the risk of fentanyl, which DHS said is strong and cheap to produce.
“As we continue our work to promote mental health, reduce harm, and increase support for those struggling with substance use disorders, we can’t ignore the greater risks people face by not knowing what is included in the drugs they are taking,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said. “This is a public health crisis, and it’s necessary to sound the alarm to prevent unnecessary deaths.”
DHS noted that fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Chief Medical Officer in DHS Bureau of Community Health Promotion Dr. Jasmine Zapata explained that the drug can cause overdoses more easily.
“Fentanyl is very strong, and it doesn’t take a lot to cause an overdose,” Dr. Zapata said. “Plus, the amount of fentanyl in drugs is completely random, even in the same supply. We encourage people who use substances to get fentanyl test strips and use them to know if the drug they intend to use is laced with the substance.”
According to DHS data, synthetic opioids were found in 91% of opioid overdose deaths last year. The number of fentanyl overdose deaths is also growing, with DHS noting that number grew by 97% from 2019 to 2021.
DHS added that fentanyl can be laced with pills, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and other drugs.
Dane County health officials reported a sharp spike in drug overdoses two weeks ago, worrying counterfeit pills that contained lethal amounts of fentanyl or methamphetamine could be circulating in the community. Public Health Madison and Dane County spokesperson Morgan Finke told NBC15 on Friday that conditions to issue another spike alert had not been met since the last one was issued.
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