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DuPage County Sees Rise In Opioid-Related Deaths And Narcan Saves In 2016

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The DuPage Narcan Program released its annual report revealing an increase in opioid-related deaths and Narcan saves.

In 2016, there were 78 deaths and Naloxone or Narcan was used 145 times to save people who were overdosing on heroin or heroin-related drugs in DuPage County, said DuPage County coroner Richard Jorgensen. WBBM's Bernie Tafoya reports.

The number of fentanyl-attributed deaths doubled, to 16 compared to 8 in 2015. Fentanyl, a synthetic drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Jorgensen said most overdose deaths are due to a combination of heroin and fentanyl.

"These numbers reveal that our work is not done in the quest to beat this epidemic," Jorgensen said in the report. "We must continue to bring education to our citizens about this problem to prevent the misuse of opioids, treat those who are addicted and eradicate the supply of illegal drugs."

Jorgensen said Naloxone was used more times to save lives in 2016, with 145 saves, than the total number of times for 2014 and 2015 combined, with a total of 99 saves. It was used 66 times in 2015 and 33 times in 2014, he said.

The number of heroin and heroin-related deaths jumped sharply too, from 51 in 2015 to 78 last year.

"I'm not sure we can say every time that somebody had a reversal that they would have died," Jorgensen said. "But certainly a large percentage of them would."

He said the key way to reduce the number of overdoses is education starting in middle school. He said heroin is already in every high school.

Since 2014, 3,143 individuals have been trained to administer Naloxone among 60 program sites across DuPage County and the northern Illinois area.

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