New varieties of Fentanyl making battle against opioids harder

Rise in Fentanyl overdoses in Jefferson County
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 8:25 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 12, 2022 at 8:55 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Fire and EMS in Jefferson County are facing a continued uptick in Fentanyl overdoses. Now, new varieties of fentanyl are more resistant to lifesaving drugs like Naloxone (Narcan).

It’s an issue one recovering heroin addict said is just getting worse.

“We’re dying at an alarming rate,” Brent Bonham said. As an advocate now, Bonham sees those affected in a close proximity.

“I’ve never seen the level of opioid overdoses that we’re seeing...I expect that in the next two weeks, I’ll know at least one person to die of an opioid overdose,” Bonham said. He describes it as a warzone.

Marcy Ledbetter with Jefferson County 911 says they get over 100 calls a year for drug overdoses, and in just the last quarter they received 54 overdose calls. Ledbetter says there are more affected who do not call for fear of getting in trouble with the law. Without a rescue ambulance, the risk for death becomes much higher.

“We do typically send law enforcement to those calls, but it’s for same safety issues. It’s not to get anyone in trouble,” Ledbetter said. And the time for response is critical for local fire and EMS because of how fast fentanyl infiltrates the body.

“The patient can actually die very quickly, compared to other medical emergencies,” said Brandon Dalhen, Battalion Chief at Center Point Fire District. Homewood Fire Department tells WBRC they are encountering altered varieties of Fentanyl that require double doses of Naloxone to reverse the effects. Bonham said money for more EMS staff and more Naloxone kits will help, but he also hopes those recovering can get more inpatient treatment with the state funding.

“The truth of matter is, a lot of times we end up taking people hospitals saying they’re suicidal so they can get into some kind of inpatient treatment. People do recover. I know thousands of people who have totally recovered their lives they’ve they’ve rebuilt their lives,” Bonham said.

Homewood Fire crews said they hope the cost of Naloxone will go down so that can add more kits to their arsenal.

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