MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More Minnesota law enforcement officials are voicing concern over a recent spike in drug overdoses, warning that fentanyl is being found in counterfeit pills and other narcotics sold on the street.
In a statement Tuesday, Lt. Jeff Wersal, the commander of the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force, said there have been numerous overdoses in the Mankato area this month, with four of them fatal. The ages of the victims were from 18 to 24.
The task force suspects that the overdoses are opioid-related. In two of the deaths, there was evidence of counterfeit prescription pills made from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid orders of magnitude more potent than morphine.
“Opioids such as heroin and fentanyl are continuing to become more prevalent in the region,” Wersal said. “Counterfeit pills made of fentanyl are not produced professionally and the fentanyl potency of each pill can vary. In addition, all the heroin seized in the area over the last two years was found to also contain fentanyl.”
This statement comes just days after St. Paul police released a similar warning over a significant spike in overdoses. The department said that during a single day recently, officers responded to seven suspected overdoses, two of which were fatal.
The police department attributed the overdoses to synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl, being mixed with narcotics sold on the street. They noted that even in small doses, synthetic opioids can be lethal.
Last year, drug overdose deaths increased 27% in Minnesota, with about half of the fatalities involving synthetic opioids.
Preventing Overdose Deaths
Authorities say that anyone who witnesses someone actively overdosing should to call 911 immediately. They are also urged to move the victim onto their side and administer Narcan if the overdose treatment is at hand.
In Minnesota, a person who seeks medical help for a person experiencing a drug-related overdose may not be charged or prosecuted for the possession, sharing or use of drugs. This is known as the state’s Good Samaritan law.