Increase in recent overdose deaths in Southwest Michigan traced to fentanyl-laced heroin


By: Jon Zimney

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, makes remarks about the drug fentanyl at University of Pennsylvania Medical School in Philadelphia, Friday, July 28, 2006. While Fentanyl-laced heroin has killed several hundred drug-users nationwide over the past few months, people who work in the field believe the extent of the overdoses is not fully known because so many nonfatal overdoses go unreported. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Berrien County Health Department, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police Niles Post have issued a warning to residents about the dangers of fentanyl-laced heroin that has been the cause of several fatal overdoses, leading to an increase in recent overdose deaths in Southwest Michigan.

Fentanyl is a strong painkiller often used with those in severe pain from cancer, is 80-100 times more potent than morphine.

The drug has made its way to the streets and increasingly is being used to cut heroin — resulting in a deadly combination, according to a news release from the Berrien County Health Department.

The combination of the two drugs makes users feel drowsy, nauseated and confused, but also euphoric. But, within minutes of using this contaminated heroin users lose consciousness and causes a person’s breathing to slow to a stop, the news release states.

“We are concerned to see this rise in drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl here in Southwest Michigan,” said Lt. Melinda Logan with the Michigan State Police Niles Post. “Fentanyl is extremely dangerous to anyone else who may come into contact with it. We have lost too many of our residents to drug overdoses and we strongly encourage parents, caregivers, teachers, local law enforcement and mentors to firmly and passionately educate others about the dangers of drug abuse, and to seek immediate help and treatment for those addicted to drugs.”

Historically, this is not the first time fentanyl has posed a threat to public health and safety. Between 2005 and 2007, more than 1,000 U.S. deaths were caused by fentanyl-heroin overdoses, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Seizures of drugs containing the painkiller jumped from 942 to 3,334 between 2013 and 2014.

The Voice. Change. Hope. Alliance welcomes community members who wish to get involved in addressing prescription drug and heroin abuse issues in order to connect individuals and families with the resources they need for recovery.

For more information about Voice. Change. Hope., contact Kerri Teachout with the Berrien County Health Department at (269) 927-5668.