Delaware's drug dealers are cutting cocaine with fentanyl

A very dangerous trend among drug dealers has made its way to Delaware - cutting cocaine with fentanyl.

Delaware 105.9's Rob Petree reached out to Wendy Hudson, director of  communications for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, who said drug enforcement officials have encountered the dangerous combination.

"The Division of Forensic Science, both our Forensic Chemistry Unit (which tests seized drugs by law enforcement agencies) and the Toxicology Unit (which tests post mortem samples) have seen samples with a mixture of cocaine and fentanyl," according to Hudson.

Fentanyl, an opioid painkiller ten-times stronger than heroin, mixed with cocaine creates an extremely dangerous combination that can kills users instantly.

An alarming increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths occurred in 2016 which drove the total number of fatal overdoses in Delaware past 300 that year, with fentanyl-related deaths divided among fentanyl alone and fentanyl mixed with cocaine or heroin, or both, according to figures released by the Division of Forensic Science.

Specific data and numbers for the past year were not available, according to Hudson who said the information will be included in the Division of Forensic Science's 2017 Annual Report set to be released in the next few weeks.

"As a physician, I have seen the toll that addiction takes on individuals and their families, and I have personally seen the effects of dangerous combinations with fentanyl, heroin and cocaine," Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker said. "Even one use of an illicit drug can be lead to overdose and death, but the added presence of fentanyl dramatically increases those risks. We hope that those affected will talk with a provider to help individuals get connected to treatment for this disease."

Drug dealers sell fentanyl in a variety of ways, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Dealers sell pure fentanyl in white powder form to users who assume they are buying heroin. They lace fentanyl with cocaine or heroin, and they press fentanyl into pills and pass them off as OxyContin.

"Too many times, our police officers and other first responders see first-hand the dangers of fentanyl-related overdoses," Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Robert Coupe said. "That's why we encourage anyone who is using or suffering from addiction to call for help or to ask a police officer, a medical professional or another first responder for help. Our first priority is to save lives."

Individuals and families can visit DHSS' website, www.HelpIsHereDE.com, for addiction treatment and recovery services in Delaware and nearby states. If individuals see someone overdosing, they should call 911.

Under Delaware's 911/Good Samaritan Law, people who call 911 to report an overdose and the person in medical distress cannot be arrested for low-level drug crimes.

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