Scientists at Oregon state crime lab help push through ban on da - KPTV - FOX 12

Scientists at Oregon state crime lab help push through ban on dangerous opioid

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Scientists are the Oregon state crime lab say they are seeing an increase in overdose cases from counterfeit opioids which are laced with Fentanyl. (KPTV) Scientists are the Oregon state crime lab say they are seeing an increase in overdose cases from counterfeit opioids which are laced with Fentanyl. (KPTV)
CLACKAMAS, OR (KPTV) -

Fentanyl, a drug many times more potent than morphine and recently linked to the death of pop legend Prince, looks to be on the rise in Oregon.

Toxicologists at the Oregon State Police Forensic Lab in Clackamas said they've noticed an uptick in fentanyl overdoses in the state.

It's a troubling thought to Carly Sizelove, a forensic scientist in the chemistry department, who said in the past year she's worked numerous cases where counterfeit prescription pills come into her lab.

Some of the pills laced with illicit opioids like fentanyl, and Sizelove said just two milligrams of the drug can be deadly.

"When people are making these drugs in a hotel room or their basement, there's no way to make sure their ratios are safe,” she explained. “So, if someone is getting those ratios off, that's where it gets really deadly and someone could OD and die pretty quickly.”

Toxicologists say fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that affects pain relief, sedation and respiratory depression.

It's short acting but very potent, and that's what makes it harmful. It can be inhaled or even absorbed through the skin.

Forensic scientist Sara Short works in the toxicology department of the state crime lab and says fentanyl use has jumped in the last two years.

"It's very potent. Fentanyl in and of itself is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine,” she said. “We have definitely seen more fentanyl derivatives in our lab. The first case we saw was in 2014, where we identified it in a post-mortem case and since 2015, we've had 11 other cases."

Because the toxicology and chemistry departments at the state forensic lab work hand in hand, Short and Sizelove said they quickly realized that something must be done to stop the rise of the underground designer drug from causing any more deaths in the state.

They went to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy this summer to push for the board to ban it.

"We presented some of the facts and cases we've seen here, and they were receptive to what we're saying," Sizelove said.

The board wound up voting to temporarily ban the sale and possession of fentanyl analogs and similar designer drugs, such as W-18, in late August, adding these opioid designer drugs to Schedule 1 of the Oregon list of controlled substances.

"Oregon is leading the way in scheduling them by class, and I think a lot of other states are looking to what we're doing and our wording to control in their individual states," Sizelove said.

The two believe this proactive change by the Board of Pharmacy will reduce and prevent unnecessary deaths in Oregon.

"It feels really good, we're trying to save lives and keep the drug off our streets,” Sizelove said. “And hopefully this helps and keeps people safe."

All fentanyl derivatives are temporarily scheduled through February 17, 2017.

The Oregon Board of Pharmacy will meet later in the year to discuss permanently scheduling the drug. The meeting will be open for public comment.

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