Addiction expert on Oregon’s growing fentanyl crisis

ByDonald L. Leech

Mar 23, 2022

PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – Fentanyl is fueling the overdose crisis in Oregon. Drug-related deaths are on the rise and just recently two high school students in Portland were found dead after taking pills containing fentanyl. Today, police departments and local addiction specialists are sounding the alarm about unintentional overdoses.

Fentanyl can be found in powder form. Locally, it has been found in methamphetamine, heroin and counterfeit pills – and it is not known what the drug contains unless the substance is tested.

For example, fentanyl strip tests are available for drug addicts during needle exchanges. However, for many Oregonians who are not drug addicts, fentanyl is still something to be wary of.

“It’s sold as a powder and more often as pills pressed to look like prescription oxycodone,” says Sarah Leitz, head of addiction medicine at Kaiser Permanente.

Leitz says fentanyl is linked to a growing number of overdose deaths in Oregon, while fatal overdoses have increased exponentially over the past two years.

“Because of the way it works, it’s extremely potent – 50 to 100 times more potent than methamphetamine or heroin,” says Leitz. “Of course we want people to only take prescription drugs that they collect for them from a pharmacy. If they are on a medication that was not prescribed to them, recognize that fentanyl is very common and may be present in these pills.

Leitz says it’s also a good idea to have Narcan at home to stop overdoses — even if you’re taking prescription drugs that you get from a doctor.