Report: opioid deaths spike in Jackson County

MEDFORD, Ore. – Opioid deaths are on the rise in Jackson County, with 10 people dying within the first four months of 2018.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports six people died from opioids in Jackson County in 2017, with four dying in 2016. That makes the 2018 numbers a 70 percent increase in just a fraction of the time.

Jackson County Medical Director Jim Shames said he’s worried the county could be the proverbial “canary in a coal mine” for the rest of the state. This is because Jackson County is the first stop on heavily-trafficked Interstate 5 headed north from California.

Another concern for Jackson County–and the rest of the state–is the increase in synthetic opioid fentanyl. Use of the drug has been increasing rapidly, particularly for those whose access to prescription opioid has been cut off.

Fentanyl can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine, and many times that of heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can be mixed into heroin without users knowing, increasing the risk of death exponentially.

According to The Oregonian/OregonLive, Jackson County is actively encouraging heroin users to test for the presence of fentanyl. They’re also working to make sure the overdose drug naloxone is as widely available in the county as possible.

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