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Fentanyl is causing a spate of deadly overdoses in Lebanon County



The head of the Lebanese county commission on drug and alcohol abuse is concerned.

As of May 5, we have had 14 fatal overdoses. We had 29 in all of 2022, Jim Donmoyer said.

That puts the county ahead with 42 in 2023, which would surpass the previous record of 39.

To know more: The Tolls of a Global Pandemic: COVID-19 is taking a physical and mental toll on county residents

Fentanyl was also the leading culprit in overdose deaths in County Lebanon for 2022 and was present in 16 of the 29 deaths.

Donmoyer singled out one culprit above all others as the cause of the surge: fentanyl, the potent synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine that is supposed to be used as a pain reliever.

The drug has legitimate medical use as a pain reliever, but drug dealers combine fentanyl with other illegal opioids popular with addicts to boost potency and profit margins.

Even small doses of fentanyl can depress the respiratory system, leading to a decreased respiratory rate. If left untreated, a fentanyl overdose can deprive the brain of oxygen and cause death.

This became evident when Donmoyer leafed through the records of the county coroner, Dr. Jeffrey Yocum.

“Of the 14 people who died, Dr. Yocum considers 12 ‘mixed toxicology,’ which is a lot of different drugs in their system,” Donmoyer said. “But what’s consistent is that 12 out of 14 involve fentanyl mixed with other drugs.”

The “other drugs” are familiar. “Here we have a fatal with fentanyl and cocaine, here we have oxycontin, here we have heroin,” Donmoyer said.

Only one of 14 fatal overdoses this year was due solely to fentanyl, Donmoyer noted. “Normally it’s a drug they take where they don’t know there’s fentanyl mixed in it.”

While not ruling out the possibility, Donmoyer said he was unaware of any cases in the county where marijuana had been added to fentanyl.

“Tranq,” or xylazine, is another drug that is illicitly mixed with heroin and fentanyl and has contributed to the rise in overdose deaths nationwide, including several cases in Philadelphia. Donmoyer previously told LebTown that xylazine has not yet been detected in any of the county’s overdose deaths, but added that based on past experience, what happens in Philadelphia usually eventually spreads to other parts. of the state.

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To know more: Lebanese county coroner’s office investigates fewer deaths in 2022

FASP sees a modest overall jump across all ODs

Lebanon’s First Aid & Safety Patrol is the county’s largest provider of ambulance and EMT services. FASP director Gregg Smith told LebTown his organization is seeing a more modest increase in calls for overdoses of all types, fatal and non-fatal, illegal and prescription drugs.

“In the past 12 months, we have responded to 251 overdoses of all types,” Smith said on May 16. “That includes everything. Opiates and other illegal drugs, prescription opiates, over-the-counter drugs and alcohol.

“In the previous 12 months, we responded to 243 overdose calls. This is an increase of 1.3%. That’s what our data shows.”

It may be a modest increase, but opioids are still a big contributor. “Of those 251, 55 are known to be opioids, which could include prescription (opioid) drugs,” Smith said.

Smith stressed that those are just FASP’s statistics and that he couldn’t speak to the experiences of other first responders.

Opioid overdoses can be reversed and prevented

Donmoyer pointed out that naloxone, a drug that can rapidly reverse opioid overdoses if administered early, is now widely and economically available to anyone, including the general public. It is marketed under the brand name Narcan.

“We distribute Narcan for the county,” he said. “We give it to EMTs, cops, first responders, all school districts and county agencies.”

Donmoyer added that the general public can obtain Narcan and that minimal training is required to administer it properly.

“If someone calls us and asks for Narcan, we will give it to them, without strings attached. There are training videos online. If you give someone Narcan who doesn’t need it, he won’t hurt him.

Narcan is also sold in pharmacies, including Rite Aid and CVS, “but you can get it from us for free,” Donmoyer said.

The county gets its Narcan through a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. “They give us as much as we want,” Donmoyer said. “The idea is to flood Narcan out there.”

Fentanyl in its raw form is a white powder, making it easy for drug dealers to hide it in cocaine and heroin. Pennsylvania has legalized fentanyl test strips, which let addicts know they’re using drugs laced with the lethal opioid.

Donmoyer said the county is in the process of getting a supply of fentanyl test strips. Local CVS and Rite Aid stores told LebTown on May 26 that they didn’t have the strips yet.

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