The steady rise in deaths attributed to the powerful narcotic fentanyl has impacted communities across America and around the world in recent years. For their part, Wisconsin public health officials are urging the state’s citizens to take the issue even more seriously.
According to a new public health advisory issued by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the number of fentanyl-related deaths has skyrocketed over the past three years, nearly doubling from 651 in 2019 to 1,280 in 2021.
As the statement explained: “synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were identified in 91 percent of opioid overdose deaths and 73 percent of all drug overdose deaths” over the course of the past year.
Furthermore, the agency noted that those who use other drugs are also at a higher risk of overdose and death because of the prevalence of this drug.
“The sharp increase in overdose deaths is not only impacting those who use opioids,” the DHS advisory explained. “Cocaine deaths involving synthetic opioids increased by 134 percent from 2019 (182) to 2021 (426), and it is estimated that as many as 40 percent of counterfeit pills contain enough fentanyl to be lethal.”
DHS Secretary-Designee Karen Timberlake called the situation “a public health crisis” and said immediate action is necessary to prevent the death rate from rising even more dramatically.
Among the agency’s recommended responses are increases in the number of available test strips so drug users can determine if their narcotics contain fentanyl and Narcan, which is a prescription medication used to treat overdoses.
Earlier this month, Waukesha County announced its own advisory to address the spike in opioid-related deaths over the past couple of years. Resulting in 95 deaths in 2020 and 92 last year, drug overdoses have become the county’s leading cause of non-natural death.
Of course, Wisconsin is hardly alone in sounding the alarms about widespread deaths related to fentanyl.
Overdose deaths due to fentanyl are reaching record highs in the U.S.
“Anyone with a smartphone has a drug dealer with them,” says DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, adding that young people are consistently being lied to about the drugs they are buying on social media. pic.twitter.com/Wgg2683aPR
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) August 19, 2022
Michael Troster of the Alaska High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area recently expressed concerns about the sharp rise in fentanyl deaths and drug confiscation in his state.
While he noted that some drug users “actively seek out fentanyl,” the bigger problem is often “attributed to people thinking they have one substance (Adderall) and it’s contaminated with fentanyl.”