Fentanyl: A Pain Killer Becomes a Killer

Fentanyl: A Pain Killer Becomes a Killer

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The drug "fentanyl" has claimed more than a dozen lives in Jefferson County over the last year.

Fentanyl is a high-powered pain killer, used legally and properly for people in severe, chronic pain or at the end of their lives. It's increasingly popular street use is as a drug to cut heroin - it saves dealers money and makes the heroin they sell stronger.

The problem is, it's hard to tell the exact strength of the synthetic fentanyl or how much of it a dealer cut into the heroin.

Doreen Slocum, a recovering drug addict, told 7 News reporter Garrett Domblewski she nearly died from a fentanyl overdose.

"It was just the residue in the bag," she said. "There was no powder in the bag except for residue, and I had scraped the residue out of the bag. And I overdosed on just that."

Doreen said if she had injected that amount of just heroin, she wouldn't have even felt it.

The drug is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

"It's scary. It's alarming to think that, you don't even know what you're dealing with out there," said Betsy Rogers, another recovering addict who coaches others on staying off drugs. 

"It's one thing to be dealing with the medical grade, but now that it's chemical, even the drug dealers don't even know the potency of what they're dealing with."

To give you some idea of how small a dose of fentanyl can be deadly, consider this: it only takes 2 mg of fentanyl to kill someone who has never used an opiate before. A bag of heroin contains between 80 to 100 milligrams of powder.

In Jefferson County, the number of overdose deaths has risen every year since 2013.

In 2016 there were 23 deaths, at least 10 related to fentanyl, and as of June this year there have been 9 overdose deaths, 6 related to fentanyl.

"I just know that if somebody who came in contact with fentanyl, and they have no experience in opiates, they have no experience with heroin or pain killers, that their life is completely on the line," Slocum said.

(Watch part 1 of Garrett's report on fentanyl by clicking on the picture above this story. In part 2, Garrett goes to Massena, where the police department is concerned about the danger fentanyl poses to addicts, the community and the police.)


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