Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids are skyrocketing across Illinois, increasing by 600 percent over the last year in one county.
The steep increase in overdoses in the state is being driven by fentanyl and its analogs, or synthetic replications of fentanyl. The substance is roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and is largely blamed for the sharp increase in opioids deaths nationally since 2010, reports Chicago Tribune.
Rob Russell, the Kane County Corner, says fentanyl related deaths were six times higher in 2016 than in the previous year and expects the death toll will continue climbing. While the deadly effects of fentanyl are well known, recovering addicts say the potency of the substance actually serves to entice users searching for the ultimate high.
“I was (patronizing a particular dealer) because he had the fentanyl dope,” Keith Glissendorf, a 42-year-old recovering addict currently undergoing methadone treatment, told the Chicago Tribune. “I crashed three vehicles in a week. I went to jail. But I liked it. I loved it — the rush, the euphoria, everything that came along with it. I was getting ripped.”
Opioid overdoses killed more than 1,000 people in Illinois in 2013, but at the time, only eight percent of the deaths involved fentanyl. Opioid deaths killed nearly 1,900 people in the state in 2016, according to Illinois Department of Public Health, and roughly half were connected to fentanyl. Officials fear the fentanyl plague will continue, due to the substance being relatively cheap and easy to smuggle.
Authorities announced a record seizure of fentanyl and nearly 30,000 fake pills spiked with the substance at the Mexico border Saturday. Members of the Mexican Army made the bust Aug. 19 at a checkpoint to enter the U.S. near San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico.
Authorities seized a total of 140 pounds of pure fentanyl carrying an estimated street value of $1.2 million, according to estimates from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Law enforcement blames fentanyl for the steep increase in fatal opioid overdoses that claimed an estimated 60,000 lives in the U.S. in 2015.
A bipartisan proposal in the Senate would give border agents the technology to screen for chemicals at U.S. entry points in an effort to target fentanyl shipments.
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida proposed the INTERDICT Act earlier this year and are renewing their call for support after a report released Tuesday showed fentanyl deaths are rising.
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