West Michigan experiencing spike in fentenayl-related overdoses

There has been a spike in fentanyl-related overdoses in two counties on the west side of the state, according to the Michigan Poison Center at Wayne State University.

Cass and Van Buren counties are experiencing more overdoses related to the drug that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.

So far, Southwest Michigan has had five overdoses this year, which is more than last year.

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Dr. Varun Vohra, a clinical toxicologist with the poison center, said Southeast Michigan, especially the Detroit area, has seen a lot of fentanyl in cocaine and heroin.

"People are being exposed to potentially especially lethal concentrations of drugs, specifically fentanyl, which can be coproduced or co-formulated with other opioids or other drugs unbeknownst to the users," Vohra said. "If they get this highly potent spike of fentanyl in there it causes them to stop breathing and die."

Dr. Andrew King, an addiction specialist with the poison center, said the pandemic has been challenging for some people in recovery.

"Often times you can use a substance to suppress bad feelings, loss of job and income, and feeling isolated and lonely tired angry -- those are big triggers for people to return to using again," he said.

Vohra said that while all people cannot be stopped from using drugs, people who are using them should make sure they have a drug reversal medication, such as Narcan, nearby.

"We know people will use these products and illicit recreational drugs, and they need to know the risks associated with that and have an antidote on hand or with them," Vohra said. "It would be a huge boom to mitigate these overdoses."

If you or a loved one needs help with addiction call the poison center at 800-222-1222.