YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – York County Coroner Pam Gay says her office is increasingly finding the drug fentanyl after heroin-related deaths.
Fentanyl is an extremely powerful and synthetic painkiller. It is prescribed in small doses under special circumstances like surgeries. Oftentimes, heroin users have no idea they’re injecting themselves with it.
The drug is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.
“Most of our medications, when you get them from the physicians, are in doses of milligrams, but when it comes to fentanyl patches, we dose it in terms of micrograms, which makes it one thousandth the concentration,” said Dr. Matthew Howie, medical director of the York City Bureau of Health.
Sixteen of the last 25 confirmed heroin-related overdoses in York County have involved fentanyl.
“What drug dealers want to do is get the best product to users. They’ll put anything they can inside that heroin to make it stronger,” York County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dave Sunday said.
Users often don’t know how much fentanyl they’re using, or if they’re using it.
“In this case, you have no quality control, you have no understanding of it. So, it is a roll of the dice,” Howie said.
Officials have seen the trend before, all over the Midstate. The question is why.
“It depends on supply and demand,” Sunday said. “It depends on what substances are available to drug dealers at the moment. It’s as simple as that.”
Those high amounts can damage a person’s brain and respiratory system.
“Drug dealers don’t care. They don’t care what happens to the users. They don’t care if the users die. And so they pack their drugs full with whatever they need to use to get people to become more addicted,” Sunday said.
Narcan can be used to combat the drug to save someone’s life in an emergency situation.
If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin or drug addiction, there is help available at the Heroin Task Force’s website.