MURRAY – In 2020, more than 93,000 people have died from substance overdose in the United States, according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and they list fentanyl as one of the main reasons for the increase. 

Fentanyl is an illicit opioid that typically is used to lace other illegal substances such as marijuana, heroin, pills and many others. It is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more than heroin. The powerful opioid was first introduced to the public in the 1960s as an anesthetic and is continued to be used in hospitals today. 

According to Calloway County Coroner Ricky Garland, in 2019 Calloway County had five overdoses with one being from fentanyl, six overdoses in 2020, with one being from fentanyl and six overdoses in 2021, with two being from fentanyl. 

“Most of the time we have dealt with situations where it’s been more of an accidental overdose situation,” Garland said. “A lot of times, the drug is either laced and they did not know it, or a lot of people may (be) used to taking a certain dose of a drug, like prescription medication, that sometimes if it’s laced and they don’t know it, that’s where you get the accidental overdose. Especially if it’s laced with Fentanyl or Carfentanil.”

Calloway County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jody Cash explained one reason that Calloway County has seen an increase in fentanyl is the way drugs cycle in popularity. 

“As I understand, drugs kind of cycle,” Cash said. “Heroin and the effect fentanyl has when it is added to heroin is part of why I believe it has made its way back to the area. From what I’ve learned, the cycles of different drugs coming in and out have to do with generational change. One generation passing and the next generation not understanding the effects of (a drug) so they start to come back.”

Because the smallest amount of exposure can cause harm or death, the CCSO takes extra precautions when handling substances that could potentially contain the drug. These precautions include the use of masks and double gloving. In neighboring counties, like Marshall County, they have vacuumed hoods that can be used as well.

Another tool that CCSO uses to protect themselves and others is Naloxone Hydrochloride, which is also known as “Narcan”. 

“Narcan is the drug that is used to reverse the effect of opiates, which fentanyl is one of the strongest opiates,” Cash said. “It can be used in a fentanyl exposure or a heroin overdose and even, theoretically, in hydrocodone overdose. 

Last month, CCSO provided Calloway County School District 12 doses of Narcan.

“It was related to (fentanyl increases), but it was not in response to an instance at the school,” Cash said. “It was an opportunity that we saw to prepare for if anything ever did happen at the school. It’s our hope that is never used but if it’s ever needed, everyone will be glad it’s available.” 

If you or someone you know has a substance addiction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline is 1-800-662-4357.