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Five deaths connected to overdoses

Staff Writer | May 22, 2021 1:08 AM

Law enforcement officials are warning the public about an increase in fatal overdoses connected to fentanyl, a highly potent and often deadly drug.

Over the last eight days, five fatal overdoses have been reported in Kootenai County involving counterfeit prescription pills and other illicit narcotics suspected to be laced with fentanyl. The deaths involve four males and one female ranging in age from 15 to 60.

"It appears at this time all five deaths were accidental and unrelated," according to a press release from the Idaho State Police.

Police hope to halt the trend by alerting the public and encouraging parents to talk to their teens about the dangers of narcotics, the release said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Attorney's Office, ISP, Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene police issued the warning.

A similar warning about counterfeit prescription pills was issued earlier this month and said three deaths were reportedly attributed to the pills since last fall. The five additional deaths in eight days prompted another warning.

Nearly 90,000 people died as a result of drug overdose in the United States from Nov. 1, 2019, through Oct. 31, 2020, the largest number of drug-related deaths recorded within a single year. More than 74 percent of those deaths involved an opioid, the release said.

"Overdose deaths involving a synthetic opioid rose 54.7 percent and appear to be the primary driver of the increase in total overdose deaths," according to the release.

In Kootenai County last year, overdose deaths rose by 37 percent, from 24 in 2019 to 33 in 2020.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and up to 50 times more potent than heroin.

"Even tiny doses, as little as two milligrams, the size of two grains of salt, is a fatal dose for most people," the release said. "Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing mass quantities of fentanyl and counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl for distribution throughout North America.

"Counterfeit prescription pills look like legitimate prescription pills and are incredibly dangerous because the amount of fentanyl varies from each pill, even in the same batch," it said. "In other words, there is no way to tell whether a pill purchased illicitly on the internet or the street is actually Oxycodone or a more powerful drug."

Idahoans are urged to use only prescription drugs prescribed to them by legitimate health care providers and obtained from their pharmacy.

Anyone with information on who is supplying counterfeit prescription pills is urged to contact Idaho State Police at the Idaho Drug Tip Hotline 1-800-524-7277 or the Coeur d'Alene Police Department at 208-769-2320.

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