Florida’s first responders are warning residents about the rising threat from cocaine cut with deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, which they say is becoming “widespread.”
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department officials said at a city council hearing Monday that cocaine overdose toxicology reports are increasingly testing positive for fentanyl, which is a painkiller roughly 30 to 50 times more powerful than pure heroin. The city is currently running an opioid treatment pilot program regularly testing participants for 17 different chemicals, including fentanyl, Florida Politics reported.
Officials fear drug distributors are expanding their use of fentanyl to non-opiate based drugs. This trend will likely result in a continued increase in drug overdose deaths.
“Cocaine laced with fentanyl is prevalent now,” Councilman and treatment backer Bill Gulliford said, according to Florida Politics. “In recent toxicology reports, every sample of cocaine had fentanyl in it. The scary part of this is it’s becoming more widespread. There are incidents of this used in counterfeit Xanax.”
Fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is blamed as the primary driver of the addiction crisis and rising overdose deaths.
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Authorities fear that because cocaine is more widely used as a social drug than a substance like heroin, many users are unaware of the fatal risks even a small amount of the drug now carries.
Fentanyl overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cocaine-overdose deaths increased from roughly 4,000 in 2009 to more than 6,700 in 2015, the CDC estimates. Cocaine-overdose deaths are about to explode in 2017 to nearly 11,000, National Institute on Drug Abuse officials predict.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50. They killed more than 64,000 people in 2016.
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