Fentanyl proves deadly in 3 out of 9 heroin overdoses

It’s official. The often deadly drug fentanyl has entered the local heroin supply.

Lab test results are back for nine of the 10 people who died of suspected heroin overdoses in March and April in Jackson County.

Heroin plus fentanyl was found in the systems of three of the deceased people, according to the Medford Police Department.

The test results confirm that fentanyl is linked to the dramatic spike in heroin-related deaths this spring, according to MPD.

The county recorded four overdose deaths for all of 2016 and six overdose deaths in 2017.

The 10 who died this spring were all men who ranged in age from 23 to 53, with most in their 30s, according to health officials.

Medford Lt. Mike Budreau said police are investigating the source of the deadly heroin.

Medford police are urging people who use opioids to find treatment and recovery options at staysafeoregon.com/find-help/treatment-and-recovery/.

Opioids include illegal street drugs such as heroin, plus prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet.

Medication-assisted treatment is available that helps curb the urge to use, eases withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risk of relapsing.

In Jackson County, Allied Health Services of Medford at 777 Murphy Road provides methadone, Suboxone and other medication-assisted treatment. Call 541-705-2258.

In Josephine County, the Grants Pass Treatment Center offers methadone and Suboxone at 1885 N.E. Seventh St. Call 541-955-3210 to schedule an appointment.

For people who aren’t ready to seek treatment, Medford police advise precautionary measures.

Go slow and take a small test amount when using a new supply or after a break from drug use, such as time in jail, Medford police urge.

According to health officials, even tiny amounts of fentanyl can kill. A fatal dose of fentanyl powder is smaller than Abraham Lincoln’s face on a penny.

Some dealers have begun mixing the potent drug into street drugs and counterfeit pain pills.

Police urges opioid users to avoid mixing drugs, such as streets drugs and prescription drugs.

Opioids can suppress breathing and lead to cardiac arrest, so taking them together further increases risk.

A person who uses should make sure someone is available to call for help in case of an overdose, police say.

People should call 911 immediately. Oregon law shields callers from prosecution on drug charges.

Police also urge people to carry naloxone, which can reverse an overdose and is legal for everyone to carry.

Naloxone is available without a prescription at participating Oregon pharmacies.

Max’s Mission, a local nonprofit that battles opioid overdose deaths, will give away free naloxone from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave.

Anyone who uses opioids, or has a friend or family member using such drugs, is encouraged to attend.

Max’s Mission will offer training on how to use the antidote.

Concern about overdose deaths in the community appears to have risen after the spring spike in deaths.

At a recent naloxone giveaway and training event, more than 70 people attended — the largest number yet, according to Max’s Mission co-founder Julia Pinsky.

For more information about Max’s Mission, see maxsmission.org.

On the national front, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory this spring encouraging more people to routinely carry naloxone.

Adams said people should think of naloxone like an EpiPen, which is commonly carried by people who are prone to dangerous allergic reactions.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

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