Illicit fentanyl, often consumed unknowingly by users, is driving the recent increase in both U.S. and local overdose deaths. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that has FDA approval to treat severe pain, but over the past 10 years, the drug has been made and distributed illegally. The sometimes-lethal combination of fentanyl and heroin has overwhelmingly contributed to the rise in overdose deaths.
Berks County Lieutenant Nelson Ortiz points to the importance of community awareness regarding the dangers of fentanyl. He always tells users that their next hit may be their last because they do not know what they are ingesting. “We just had a case where there were small traces of fentanyl in gummies,” Ortiz said. “So, you just don’t know if Fentanyl is being put in everything. People may think they’re taking an ecstasy pill, but it could contain all fentanyl. Anytime the user takes drugs, it’s like playing Russian roulette.”
“Anytime you have heroin, there’s probably fentanyl in it,” Ortiz said. “It’s all about profits. It’s easier to produce fentanyl than to produce heroin. Sometimes people are buying what they think is heroin and it’s all fentanyl. And that’s one of the reasons why people overdose because they have no idea that what they’re taking.”
The Council on Chemical Abuse website contains valuable prevention information on fentanyl and other opioid drugs for individuals and families:
Council on Chemical Abuse
50 N 5th St 5th Floor
Reading, PA 19601