Deschutes County Issues Health Alert for Potentially Lethal Heroin

Deschutes County Health officials on Friday night issued a public alert of a possible increased risk of accidental heroin overdoses.

“This alert is being issued based on a cluster of serious drug overdoses in the past 36 hours,” according to a joint statement from Deschutes County Health Services and St. Charles Health System.

Health care providers have reported to Deschutes County Health Services the heroin may be laced with synthetic fentanyl, making the drug particularly lethal.

“It wasn’t so much the number of people we saw, as much as it was how sick they were,” said Lisa Goodman, public information officer for St. Charles. “These patients needed more Narcan that is typical to recover from an overdose.”
Goodman said she still isn’t exactly sure what the patients took.

DR. DOUG LOWERY-NORTH / ST. CHARLES EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT

“Often, these kinds of overdoses present with altered mental status and suppressed, sometimes stopped, breathing,” said Dr. Doug Lowery-North of the St. Charles Emergency Department. “But, this week, we’ve seen much more severe symptoms, where people are completely comatose and have completely stopped breathing.”

The health department’s statement continued:

Be prepared. Get Naloxone. Save Lives. Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped because of an overdose. You can get naloxone through these avenues:

It is important to call 911 when someone is overdosing from opioids.

If you use naloxone, the effects are temporary, and the person still needs to seek immediate medical attention.

After the medication wears off, the person could fall back into a coma. If you call police or 911 to get help for someone having a drug overdose, Oregon’s Good Samaritan Law protects you from being arrested or prosecuted for drug-related charges or parole/probation violations based on information provided to emergency responders.

Health Services is working with community partners to conduct outreach to at-risk populations to share harm-reduction information.

Abstaining from drug use is the best way to eliminate the risk of overdose. If you are concerned about a person using drugs, you can ask them about their willingness to begin medication-assisted treatment or drug treatment. For a list of providers, visit the Stay Safe Oregon website at https://staysafeoregon.com/.

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