The Multnomah County Health Department is warning about a spike in heroin overdoses, particularly in downtown Portland.
County officials do not have an explanation for the acute spike in overdoses over the last week. The health department noted that on Wednesday evening alone, medics and police reported six overdoses. Luckily, none of them were deadly.
Dr. Jennifer Vines said those cases show the epidemic facing in Portland, adding that the concern is not only for people living on the streets but rather a huge cross section of our city.
Vines said opiate addiction has been a big problem in the area for years and that officials are doing everything they can to fight it.
The first step to getting someone into drug treatment is keeping them alive, and when a spike like this happens, she’s concerned heroin isn’t the only drug involved.
“When we see a spike, we worry that fentanyl may have hit the larger drug market in our city,” Vine explained. “That is a very potent synthetic opioid that some people use knowingly, but some people have it mixed in with heroin and use it unknowingly, and again the potency can suppress breathing and can cause a fatal overdose.”
Police officers and firefighters in Portland carry Narcan, which reverses the effects of a heroin overdose. People that are part of the needle exchange program can get it for free, and it is also available at pharmacies without a prescription.
Vines said people should never use alone and always have Narcan nearby if they are choosing to use drugs. She also said that if someone needs help not to waste any time and call 911 immediately.
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