It appears statistically that Rhode Island is right at the top of the states facing a rash of drug overdose deaths in the nation. In a 13 day period, 13 people were confirmed to have died from an overdose of the synthetic opiate fentanyl (known by the brand names Sublimaze and Haldid). The drug is purported to be 100 times stronger than morphine and has a very fast onset effect making it critical to receive treatment quickly.
For this reason state law enforcement figures are joining with Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals and the Director of Health to provide police and fire personnel training in the use of the drug Narcan an effective overdose antidote. State officials are expected to hold a press conference on Wednesday (2/19) to discuss the issue further.
Why the sudden epidemic from a supposedly controlled substance? There appears to be a connection between heroin laced with fentanyl and the normal heroin strains. It is almost as if the fentanyl is inexpensive enough to use as a cut. It makes you wonder if in exporting a quantity of their production to countries with a more lax enforcement that the drug companies have inadvertently opened themselves to competition from an imported version of their own product (now laced with heroin). Or maybe it is the federal crackdown on other popularly abused prescription drugs like oxycodone that created a need for using or returning to street drugs. There is certain to be a story connected to how such a breach could cause a supply of such widespread proportion in such a short period of time.
In the meantime it is good to remember the Good Samaritan laws protect people who call for help in an overdose situation from prosecution. This is important as early treatment has proven to be a life saving proposition.