Public Health Alert for Illicit Opioid Overdoses in Jackson County

Public Health

Jackson County Public Health is issuing an overdose alert for accidental overdoses or poisoning related to illicit opioids, specifically fentanyl. This alert is being issued based on an increase in law enforcement and emergency medical service responses and emergency department admissions related to illicit opioids during week 13 (March 24 –March 29).

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl started to become more common in Jackson County beginning in 2018. In early 2021, illicitly manufactured fentanyl became the predominant illicit opioid sold
and used in Jackson County. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be sold as counterfeit pills, such as oxycontin, or in a powder form, which can look like other drugs, such as cocaine and
methamphetamine. Fentanyl can also be mixed with other illicit opioids, such as heroin. The increased presence of fentanyl in the drug supply increases the risk of poisoning or overdosing
for people who are experimenting with drugs, who use recreationally, and not intentionally using fentanyl.

Jackson County Public Health is encouraging the medical community, community partners, parents, family and friends, people who occasionally use recreational or party drugs, and people
with an active substance use disorder to be aware of the increase in overdoses associated with illicit opioids.

There is no safe way to use illicit opioids, such as fentanyl, but there are steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk of overdosing. The street drug supply is unpredictable and inconsistent.
Assume there is a risk of drug poisoning or overdosing no matter what drug is used.

  • Abstaining from drug use is the best way to eliminate the risk of overdosing. Ask the person about their willingness to begin medication-assisted treatment, drug treatment, or access peer support programs. A list of resources can be found on the Oregon Recovers website Call the SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
  • It is critical to call 911 when someone is overdosing. If naloxone is used, the effects are temporary, and the person still needs medical attention. After the medication wears off, the person could fall back into a coma. The Good Samaritan Law protects someone from being arrested or prosecuted for drug-related charges or parole/probation violations based on information provided to emergency responders. If someone overdoses on fentanyl, it may take more naloxone to reverse the overdose. It can take about 2-3 minutes for the naloxone to take effect. Naloxone only works to reverse overdoses from opioids.
  • People who haven’t used opioids in a while are at an increased risk of overdosing. It is important to be aware of your tolerance and always use less.
  • Use drug testing strips. Fentanyl test strips can be used to test someone’s drug supply for the presence of fentanyl before the person uses it. Fentanyl drug testing strips are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to test someone’s drugs and should be used with caution. The test strips can produce a false positive and may not pick up the presence of fentanyl analogs, resulting in a false negative. Fentanyl test strips are available through Syringe Exchange Programs in Jackson County.
  • Have an overdose plan, make sure someone can get to you, and it is safest when you are with someone you trust. Use the 24/7 Never Use Alone Hotline: 1-877-696-1996 if you cannot have a safe person with you.
  • While injecting drugs carries the highest risk of overdosing or poisoning, always assume there is a risk of overdosing no matter the method used to consume the drug.
  • BE PREPARED. GET NALOXONE. SAVE A LIFE. Oregon law allows people to carry and use naloxone on others. You can get naloxone through these avenues:
    • Naloxone is available over the counter at most pharmacies.
    • Anyone who can prescribe medication can send a prescription for naloxone to your pharmacy.
    • People who utilize the Jackson County Syringe Exchange Program can receive free naloxone.
    • Free naloxone is available through Max’s Mission and HIV Alliance.