Drug Overdose Deaths Spike Again; State Police To Carry Antidote

Feb 14, 2014

State health authorities say 38 Rhode Islanders have died from suspected illicit IV drug overdoses so far this year, possibly from drugs that may have been laced with a powerful substance called fentanyl. That's despite public warnings the drugs might be tainted.

Naloxone, or Narcan, nasal spray, in a kit carried by Quincy, MA police.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Drug dealers may be adding synthetic fentanyl to heroin to boost potency or stretch the supply to make more money. But what their customers may not know is that this particular compound is many times more potent than heroin and can kill even habitual IV drug users the first time they take it.

Rhode Island's medical examiner's office spotted the disturbing uptick in drug overdoses in January. Four to five Rhode Islanders typically die from drug overdoses every week. Health officials issued warnings. The deaths dropped for a couple of weeks. But the numbers are creeping back up.

A state investigator said one victim's last words were, "Don't worry, I trust my dealer."

Officials say state police will be trained in the use of Narcan, a drug that can reverse an overdose if given in time. Local police do not currently carry the antidote, although emergency medical crews do.