Fentanyl-driven overdoses jump, officials urge naloxone

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon Health Authority analysis released Thursday has found that drug overdose deaths in Oregon more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, driven largely by misuse of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Preliminary data indicate that the trend is continuing this year, officials said. The trend is prompting urgent requests for supplies of the the rescue drug naloxone that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.

“We are seeing a critical need for naloxone as many communities experience dramatic increases in overdoses due to fentanyl misuse,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA, said in a statement. “We encourage everyone in Oregon to educate themselves and their loved ones—including young people—about the importance of naloxone, how to use it in an overdose emergency, and where people can access it.”

Health officials said Thursday that unless a “pharmacist directly hands you a prescription pill, assume it is counterfeit and contains fentanyl.” Anyone taking pills should do it with others and have naloxone available, officials said.

OHA’s Naloxone Rescue for Opioid Overdose webpage contains naloxone frequently asked questions and a map showing Oregon pharmacies that distribute the medicine.

Officials also say anyone actively using opioids, or other drugs, can get naloxone and other harm-reduction materials at no cost through syringe service programs. Syringe service programs and needle exchange services in Oregon are available to anyone who uses drugs, regardless of whether they inject them.