As rampant as the heroin epidemic has become, there is something new and even more dangerous.
A drug 80 to 200 times more potent than heroin is showing up all over Chicago. Overdoses from a synthetic form of fentanyl are being reported in most collar counties.
Users have been combining heroin and fentanyl for years. Fentanyl is much stronger than heroin and gives you a better high. But officials say there is a new form of fentanyl that may be catching users off guard.
“It’s monumental. I have never seen anything like it,” said Will County Coroner Patrick O’Neil.
Heroin overdose deaths are skyrocketing. In Will County, there were 53 heroin-related overdose deaths last year. This year, that number could double. So far, 18 people have died, with two of them after overdosing on synthetic fentanyl.
“We believe that the victims are out perhaps top buy heroin and this is being substituted for heroin and they are actually overdosing on it rather quickly,” said O’Neil.
O’Neil says synthetic fentanyl looks the same as heroin or prescription fentanyl.
Fentanyl is one of the most powerful painkillers on the market and is usually given to cancer patients through a patch or an injection.
A DEA official says the powerful synthetic form is often created in amateur labs, and is coming from China.
“Same affect chemically, structurally, a little bit different, but the same affect,” O’Neil said.
Stepping Stones is a treatment center in Joliet and serves several hundred people a year. Many of them are now being treated for heroin addiction.
“About a quarter of those or a little more are opiate addictions, mostly heroin, and the prescription pain meds ten years ago we would have a handful,” said Paul Lauridsen of Stepping Stones Treatment.
Now, synthetic fentanyl seems to be sweeping the market.
“When people don’t' know what they are getting and they get a hold of something like that, it's tragic,” Lauridsen said.
O’Neil says the topic of heroin addiction is hard to discuss, but is a must with all members of your family.
“Another disturbing issue age 16 the youngest victim that was claimed in our county by heroin all the way up to a 73-year-old grandmother,” O’Neil said.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with an addiction, please visit the following websites: