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Boreal Community Media

Cook County Connections: Fentanyl: A Clear and Present Danger in Our Neighborhoods

Feb 02, 2024 10:54AM ● By Content Editor

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From Cook County, MN - February 2, 2024


By: Pat Eliasen, County Sheriff and Molly Hicken, County Attorney

During the calendar year 2023, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office received 13 calls for service involving drug-related matters, 10 of which were calls related to drug overdoses. Our county also lost at least one community member to overdose in 2023. While these numbers may not seem significant compared to the 1,343 overdose deaths that occurred in the State of Minnesota last year, they indicate that our community is not unaffected by the proliferation of dangerous opiate drugs like fentanyl. We are not unique, nor are we excepted to this epidemic simply because of our distinctive geographic location.

Fentanyl has infiltrated every corner of this earth and continues to maintain its status as one of the most devastating drugs to hit the population in modern times. This drug ends and ruins lives, and its presence in our community is a serious risk. The most common form that Fentanyl is bought and sold is in pill form that mimics an authentic M30 Oxycodone pill. These pills are generally blue in color and have “M” stamped on one side and “30” on the other, separated by an indented line used for halving the pill. The DEA reports that laboratory testing indicates that 7 out of 10 pills seized by agencies contains a lethal dose of Fentanyl.

Some facts concerning Fentanyl:

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that mimics the effects of morphine in the human body.
  • Fentanyl is fifty times stronger than heroin and one hundred times stronger than morphine.
  • Due to high potency, availability, and low cost to produce, fentanyl is being used as a cutting agent in heroin and other illicit drugs.
  • Fentanyl is also being used in the production of counterfeit pharmaceutical medication, including pills. There is no way to know how much fentanyl is contained in each counterfeit pill.
  • The potency of these drugs has led to a significant increase in overdose-related deaths throughout the nation. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2021 nearly 71,000 drug overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids. Synthetic opioid-involved death rates increased by over 22% from 2020 to 2021.
  • Fentanyl comes in a variety of forms including powder, liquid, and pills, and it’s seen in a variety of colors.
  • When a person is under the influence of fentanyl it can produce effects such as: relaxation, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, pupil constriction, and respiratory depression.
  • 2-3 milligrams of fentanyl can induce respiratory depression, arrest, and possibly death.  2-3 milligrams is approximately 5-7 individual grains of table salt.
  • Signs of fentanyl overdose may include slow breathing or no breathing, drowsiness, disorientation, sedation, pinpoint pupils, skin rash, or clammy skin. Symptoms usually occur within minutes of exposure or ingestion. Fentanyl overdose lowers the heart rate and depresses the respiratory system.
  • If someone is suspected of ingesting or being exposed to fentanyl: seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 right away. If someone exhibits overdose symptoms, administer Naloxone (Narcan).   

Narcan is a drug that can help a person survive an overdose caused by opiate use. Doses of Naloxone and fentanyl test strips are now available from Cook County Public Health and Human Services. Fentanyl test strips can test for the presence of fentanyl and avoid a potentially fatal overdose. If you suspect a family member or a friend of using illegal drugs that may contain Fentanyl, a good suggestion is to have several doses of Naloxone or Narcan and fentanyl test strips at your disposal. If you keep Narcan on hand, the doses are very temperature-sensitive. They cannot be kept in environments that are too hot or too cold. For more information on access to harm reduction supplies in Cook County, visit the ‘news and press release’ page of our county website: https://co.cook.mn.us/news_detail_T6_R393.php.

Those seeking assessment and treatment for substance abuse for themselves or a family member may access more information about where to start by contacting Cook County Public Health and Human Services at 210-387-3620 or Grand Portage Human Services at 218-475-2453.

Cook County Public Health and Human Services is also inviting interested community members to join a recently formed Substance Misuse Prevention Coalition. A substance misuse prevention coalition is a group of individuals and organizations that work together to prevent or reduce substance use and its negative consequences in a community. A coalition can involve various sectors of the community including healthcare, education, law enforcement, faith, youth, and media representatives. A coalition can also use different strategies to address substance misuse, such as raising awareness, changing policies, providing education, and supporting treatment and recovery. If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, contact Andrea Orest, Cook County Public Health Educator, [email protected], 218-220-5536.

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.