Fentanyl related overdose deaths drastically increase across WV

Fentanyl overdoses are on the rise across the state. (WCHS/WVAH)

Concerns about the drug epidemic continue to grow after 26 overdoses in just two hours in Huntington last week.

On Monday, news broke that the death of music icon Prince was caused by an accidental overdose of the opioid Fentanyl, which has done its share of damage in West Virginia.

Fentanyl is the most potent opioid available, but the version that is showing up on the street isn't always found in the hospital. Doctors said it is being manufactured in home made labs and cut with street drugs such as heroin and explain that even the smallest amount can prove deadly.

On any given day in Charleston, paramedics are averaging four overdose calls.

"Passed out in vehicles, in parking lots. Restrooms is another common area that they use public restrooms to shoot up in," Lt. David Hodges said.

Now, with the incredibly powerful opioid Fentanyl being laced in heroin, the job of reviving the patient with Naloxone or Narcan is getting even harder for first responders.

"Now, what we're seeing is, instead of giving them the traditional 2 milligram dose, it's taking 4 or 6 milligrams, which is triple times what we're having to give them to bring them back," Hodges said.

Fentanyl is only worsening West Virginia's drug overdose crisis and the statistics are startling. In 2001, nine people across the state died from Fentanyl related overdoses. Last year, that number skyrocketed to 177 deaths, which was triple the amount from the year before.

"2012 or so there was a steady number of overdoses from heroin. Much less Fentanyl was involved, now we're seeing more than 300% increase in the Fentanyl overdoses of heroin," West Virginia Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Rahul Gupta said.

Dr. Gupta says addicts essentially have no idea what they're using and no control over the potency.

"It's much more likely that people will have an overdose and potentially die from that," Gupta said.

Hodges said it is hard to watch the way the drugs affect the lives of people across the state.

"A lot of days it is disheartening, to see the death and just the people losing their overall well being in life due to this," Hodges says.

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