FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The drug, fentanyl, has become more commonly used amongst young people in Allen County.
Hospitals around the area have seen younger people ending up in the emergency room for overdosing on opioid drugs.
According the Indiana Department of Health’s Drug Overdose Dashboard, Allen County saw 545 people admitted into emergency rooms for drug overdoses in 2022, and 63% of them consisted of people under the age of 34.
“I think there’s a couple different reasons. Some younger people want to experiment with different drugs or new drugs,” said Dr. Thomas Gutwein, Commissioner of the Allen County Department of Health. “Then they have an accidental overdose from that situation.”
Another situation he mentioned is younger people using drugs that aren’t completely pure and are potentially laced with other drugs like fentanyl. These drugs are also being bought on the streets and are not prescription drugs you get from a pharmacy.
“There’s no regulation and they don’t know what the concentration of them is,” Dr. Gutwein said.
Dr. Gutwein is also an emergency physician at Parkview Health and he has seen fentanyl as the common drug amongst patients dealing with overdoses. Oftentimes he sees people using heroin that is laced with fentanyl.
“We’re seeing more fentanyl in syringes than there was 6-7 years ago,” he said.
Fentanyl has become more easily accessible with it being available to buy on the streets and can often look like oxycodone pills. Even consuming a small dose of fentanyl can be deadly.
Narcan can be used to treat people who have overdosed from fentanyl. He said some people only take one dose of Narcan to be revived and other who took higher dosages of fentanyl require more.
He said the Narcan lasts up to a certain amount of time and can wear off if the person consumed a lot of the drug.
“Some people who have consumed a lot of the drug can potentially have lung problems and become unconscious,” he added. “There is a wide variation of what we see going from mild cases to life threatening.”
Dr. Gutwein began seeing fentanyl become a bigger problem in the county about three years ago. He said that there were less opioids being prescribed to people resulting in less of these drugs being available.
That’s when people began buying more synthetic drugs that come from China and Mexico on the streets.
“It’s pretty to easy to purchase now in the area,” he said.
One thing that makes him concerned about this issue is with people who are partying and have had a few drinks and take one pill and die.
He said he has seen those situations actually happen and that it’s sad to see.
“It’s no different than someone who has taken a lot of pills at once, but that they only took one. It’s the fact that something like that is so unexpecting,” he said.