Pueblo County sees spike in fentanyl deaths

Photo: OIGatHHS / youtube
Photo: OIGatHHS / youtube(WCTV)
Published: Jan. 17, 2018 at 8:30 AM MST
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A drug significantly more potent and addicting than heroin is on the streets of Pueblo.

Over the last year, the Pueblo County Coroner confirms three people have died from fentanyl. The drug is a synthetic opioid pain reliever -- meant for severe pain from diseases like cancer -- but that's not how people are using it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "[Fentanyl] is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product — with or without the user’s knowledge — to increase its euphoric effects." Addicts who get their drugs off the streets have no way of knowing what they are actually taking.

Opioid use is a national epidemic, but Pueblo is getting hit hard.

11 News sat down with the CEO of Crossroads Turning Point, a local drug treatment and prevention center in Pueblo.

"In some cases depending on the drug, when we're talking opioids, we've had as much as 40 to 50 percent increase in some of those drugs," Leroy Lucero said.

First responders are seeing the effects, too.

AMR says last year across Pueblo County NARCAN (naloxone) was administered almost every day -- 348 times. That's an increase from the year before when NARCAN was administered 325 times. Those numbers include all agencies across Pueblo County, besides Beulah and Rye.

Crossroads say not only are they seeing more patients addicted to drugs, but the average age of users is getting younger.

"They are pretty dangerous drugs to be messing with and I don't really think the users understand that. All it takes is one time and you might not be here tomorrow," said Lucero.

As more patients come to Crossroads specifically addicted to fentanyl, Lucero tells 11 News it's causing their facilities to take a closer look at how they treat those people.

"We have to get our staff refocused on some of this information that pertains to fentanyl and some of the causes and effects of withdrawals," he said.

Lucero says they aren't seeing a massive break out in fentanyl addicts, but he expects it will happen soon.

The alarming statistics aren't just happening in Pueblo. The Colorado Department of Health says each year over the last five years, more people have died from drug overdoses than homicides in Colorado.

Lucero says there should be more of a focus on the treatment side, especially considering the crisis is relatively new.

"There were deaths related to alcohol but they were not the kind of deaths we're talking about here," Lucero told 11 News.

The Pueblo Police Department says none of its officers have come in direct contact with the deadly drug fentanyl but they are taking precautions.

"We are preparing for it by educating our officers about how dangerous the drug is -- even just handling it is dangerous," said spokesperson Kenny Rider.

Rider also says they will continue to carry NARCAN.