Alert for the increase in fentanyl deaths
An alarming increase in fentanyl overdose deaths is reported in Alaska. From 146 drug overdose deaths in 2020, the figure rose to 253 in 2021, according to preliminary mortality data from the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS).
Alaska records an average of 14.8 opioid overdoses per 100,000 people, with the highest per capita dose rate in Anchorage, 20.8 overdoses per 100,000 people, followed by Ketchikan, Juneau, the Kenai Peninsula, and Mat-Su. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, 50 times more potent than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
What does the drug fentanyl cause in the body?
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), like other opioid painkillers, fentanyl produces effects such as relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction and respiratory depression, and death from overdose.
This dangerous drug that enters from China to Mexico reaches Alaska in the form of counterfeit pills or is added to heroin or other drugs; it is highly poisonous and more potent than morphine. Drug traffickers use fentanyl because it is incredibly addictive, even in amounts the size of a few grains of salt.
What to do if someone has an overdose?
It might be hard to tell if a person is high or has overdosed. If you’re unsure, treat it as an overdose; it could save a life.
The CDC recommends:
- Call 911 immediately.
- Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
- Place the person on their side to prevent them from suffocating.
- Stay with the person until the emergency assistance personnel arrive.
- Administer Narcan (Naloxone), if available. Narcan is a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose of opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications. Narcan is safe and easy to use and is often given as a nasal spray.
How does Narcan work, and how is it used?
Narcan quickly reverses an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids. For example, it can restore in 2 to 3 minutes the regular breathing of a person whose breathing slowed, or even stopped, because of an opioid overdose. More than one dose of Narcan may be required for more potent opioids such as fentanyl.
Kits are available at no charge at the health department’s clinic at 825 L Street. These kits include fentanyl test strips. More pickup locations can be found by visiting Project HOPE’s website.
In the first three months of this year, the Alaska High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative seized 1244 grams of fentanyl, enough to kill 622,000 Alaskans. Just two milligrams of fentanyl could be lethal.
In the face of this scourge, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has addressed the fentanyl crisis, highlighting the efforts of health care, law enforcement, and other officials; to spread the warning: “a pill can kill.”
An alert bulletin was ordered to warn schools and parents about the issue and outreach efforts with school nurses across the state.
If you or someone you know has information about drug trafficking in Alaska, call the Alaska State Police at (907) 451-5100 or, to remain anonymous, send a notice on the AKtips smartphone app or online at https:// www.dps.alaska.gov/tips