Fentanyl, a powerful prescription drug used to treat pain, usually in cancer patients, has found its way into the heroin supply. If you've even casually paid attention to headlines dotting local media this year, you've noticed an uptick in overdoses where the heroin in question was laced with the powerful Rx. The news is bad and certainly not contained to Ohio. The DEA warned in March that a surge in overdose deaths was tied to fentanyl-laced heroin. In early October, Chicago saw 74 overdoses in 72 hours, and authorities there believe fentanyl is to blame. Put simply, users don't know it's in there and it makes heroin far, far deadlier, if those stats weren't enough to get the point across.
Ohio's numbers aren't pretty. There were 84 fentanyl-related deaths in 2013, according to the AP. That number jumped to 502 in 2014. The total overdose number in Ohio was at 2,482 in 2014. Which is why the CDC team is en route (via the AP):
Experts in epidemiology and behavior with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to arrive in the state Monday at the request of the Department of Health and could be in Ohio for several weeks. The six-person team will study deaths related to the painkiller fentanyl, which has flooded the state in recent years.
“It really just gives a different set of eyes to look at the issue that will help us as we are looking to develop prevention activities here in our state,” Dr. Mary DiOrio, the Health Department’s medical director, told the Associated Press.
The CDC will compare victims of fentanyl overdoses with people who died from painkillers and heroin and figure out what puts people at risk for fentanyl overdoses and how to prevent them. The agency also will recommend strategies to Ohio to prevent future fentanyl-related deaths, said CDC spokeswoman Courtney Lenard.
Cuyahoga will be one of three counties the team visits.