Fentanyl claiming more lives in Indianapolis than heroin, new studies show

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s a drug 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. New studies show that fentanyl is claiming more lives in Indianapolis than heroin.

Experts say that’s why it’s no surprise fentanyl is now involved in so many fatal overdoses because just a tiny amount of the dangerous opioid can kill.

“Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly in some situations and fentanyl is 50 times more potent than just heroin,” said DEA assistant special agent in charge Greg Westfall.

Westfall says for years fentanyl was mainly found laced into other drugs like heroin or cocaine, but the DEA is seeing an increase in straight fentanyl being sold.

“Fentanyl is definitely on the streets and with the potency being the way it is, it’s definitely a deadly combination,” said Westfall.

A research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that in 2016, out of more than 42,000 opioid related overdose deaths nationwide, 46 percent involved fentanyl. That number is compared to just 14 percent six years earlier.

Those numbers are also reflected in Indianapolis. According to a study by a professor at IUPUI, before 2013 in Marion County, only 15 percent of fatal overdoses were tied to fentanyl, with the number rising all the way to 47 percent last year.

“With the increase of fentanyl being seen in all the different type of cases we’re doing, it’s not surprising that you start to see more and more fentanyl related overdose deaths,” said Westfall.

In addition to increasing treatment and prevention programs, Westfall says the public also needs to play a role preventing drug overdoses by helping report drug dealers in their neighborhood.