Jackson County Public Health issued an overdose alert today for fentanyl and other illicit opioids. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) Medical Examiner (ME) detectives responded to 10 fatal overdoses over the five days. ME detectives suspect fentanyl as a contributing factor in nine of the deaths. From Wednesday, July 12 through today, ME detectives responded to overdose deaths in Ashland, Central Point, Trail, White City, Talent, and five in Medford. The decedents ranged in age from 22 to 63, and nine of them were men.
For 2023 Jackson County has 33 confirmed overdoses, with 30 of them containing fentanyl. There are 41 cases pending toxicology, with at least 23 of them having some evidence of fentanyl use.
Although it is too early in the investigations to determine the exact drug that caused the deaths, many were found with fentanyl on scene. Investigations also determined some of the deceased may have not known they were using fentanyl. The drug is often mixed in with other illicit substances such as cocaine. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be sold as counterfeit pills, such as oxycontin or in a powder form, which can look like other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Fentanyl can also be mixed with other illicit opioids, such as heroin. The increased presence of fentanyl in the drug supply increases the risk of an overdose for people who are experimenting with drugs and not intentionally using fentanyl.
As part of the overdose alert, Jackson County Public Health is encouraging the medical community, community partners, parents, family and friends, and people with an active substance use disorder to be aware of the increased overdoses and harms associated with opioid use, specifically fentanyl. Using illicit opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl, increases the risk of overdosing. There is no safe way to use illicit opioids, but precautions can be taken that may help reduce the risks associated with illicit opioids. The street drug supply is unpredictable and inconsistent. Assume there is a risk of overdosing no matter what drug is used.
Here are resources from Jackson County Public Health for those in danger:
– Abstaining from drug use is the best way to eliminate the risk of overdosing. Ask the person about their willingness to begin medication-assisted treatment or drug treatment. A list of resources can be found on the Oregon Recovers website https://oregonrecovers.org/resources/. Call the SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
– It is critical to call 911 when someone is overdosing. If naloxone is used, the effects are temporary, and the person still needs medical attention. After the medication wears off, the person could fall back into a coma. Good Samaritan Law protects someone from being arrested or prosecuted for drug-related charges or parole/probation violations based on information provided to emergency responders. If someone overdoses on fentanyl, it may take more naloxone to reverse the overdose. It can take about 2-3 minutes for the naloxone to take effect. Naloxone doesn’t work on xylazine, but it will help if the opioid/fentanyl is making it hard for them to breathe.
– People who haven’t used opioids in a while are at an increased risk of overdosing. It is important to be aware of your tolerance and always use less.
– Have an overdose plan, make sure someone can get to you, and it is safest when you are with someone you trust. Use the 24/7 Never Use Alone Hotline: 1-800-484-3731 if you cannot have a safe person with you.
– While injecting drugs carries the highest risk, always assume there is a risk of overdosing no matter the method being used to consume the drug.
– BE PREPARED. GET NALOXONE. SAVE A LIFE. Oregon law allows people to carry and use naloxone on others. You can get naloxone through these avenues:
– Any pharmacist in Oregon can prescribe naloxone to you. You do not need a prescription in Oregon to access naloxone through a pharmacy.
– Anyone who can prescribe medication can send a prescription for naloxone to your pharmacy.
– People who utilize the Jackson County Syringe Exchange Program can receive free naloxone.
– Free naloxone is available through Max’s Mission and HIV Alliance.