Fatal overdoses involving fentanyl on the rise in Marion County


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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Marion County Coroner’s Office expects 250 people to die from an overdose involving fentanyl in 2020.

In 2016, the office said 86 overdose deaths involved fentanyl.

A lot of questions about fentanyl started to arise after a Carmel police officer said he nearly overdosed while responding to a call.

First responders with IEMS say they started to see possible fentanyl overdoses about a year ago. The Chief of IEMS, Dr. Dan O’Donnell, believes it could be one of the most dangerous opiates on our streets.

“People you know who may be daily opiate users who can take it and go on with their day are now overdosing,” he said.

Fentanyl is creating a new group of patients for paramedics and EMTs in central Indiana. Dr. O’Donnell said it is commonly administered as a pain killer for patients who have cancer or are on hospice. Now, he said the agency is seeing more people use it to get high.

“If given rapidly, fentanyl can basically shut off the body’s ability to or desire to take breaths,” he said.

Dr. O’Donnell claimed most people take the drug by injecting it, snorting it or sometimes smoking it. He said it can take less than a minute for someone to overdose.

“I think that is a common myth, that this is a drug that is so potent that one touch on your hands can cause you to die. That is not the case,” he said.

Still, the Marion County Coroner’s Office said nearly 200 people did die from an overdose involving fentanyl last year. It expects more than half of the overdose cases in 2020 will involve this drug.

“Fentanyl is being laced in pills people are taking. So people who are buying pills off the street, we see fentanyl is in the pills,” said Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew.

The Marion County Coroner’s Office said the number of death investigations is making them spend more money. They are asking for additional funding from the council.

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