In recent weeks, our community has suffered many drug overdose deaths. This loss of lives has affected many people, who may be searching for answers. As a physician in our community, I wanted to share some impressions about this situation.

Why is this happening? We aren’t exactly sure. One theory is fentanyl. Fentanyl is a very highly potent opiate medication. It is administered in the hospital setting where a person is closely monitored. Because it is so potent, it takes only a small amount to cause an overdose. People who use opiates develop tolerance to them, but if someone gets a very high dose all of a sudden, this can lead to overdose and death. Fentanyl is becoming more and more prevalent in other parts of the country, essentially replacing heroin. I suspect this is catching up to us now. People who purchase “street” drugs may ask for one thing, and instead unknowingly get fentanyl. Fentanyl is one of the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, in 2017, 59% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl compared to 14.3% in 2010.

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