Fentanyl is blamed for causing or contributing to nearly 43 percent of the 325 fatal drug overdoses last year in Louisville’s Jefferson County, and taking more lives than homicides, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Fentanyl-related deaths spiked to 139 from 26 between 2015 and 2016. Deaths blamed on all drugs climbed by nearly 48 percent, from 220 to 325, mirroring similar spikes across the nation. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is legally used to ease severe pain for amputees and advanced cancer patients but is increasingly hidden in batches of heroin or other drugs. It can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cautions that a dose as small as two milligrams — about the size of Abraham Lincoln’s cheek on a penny — can be lethal. Officers and users can’t detect it. And sometimes dealers don’t even know it’s in the shipment they bought from their suppliers, police say. “I’m scared of it,” said Louisville Metro Police Lt. J.T. Duncan, a narcotics unit supervisor. “You never know what you’re going to get.” Predictions for 2017 are bleak. Jim Scott, agent-in-charge of the DEA’s Louisville Division, expects to see overdoses from fentanyl rise this year.