Deschutes Health issues alert of possibly deadly heroin

BEND, Ore. – Deschutes County Health Services and St. Charles Health System issued a public health alert Friday evening of a possible increased risk of accidental heroin overdoses, based on a cluster of four serious drug overdoses over the past 36 hours.

Health care providers have reported to Deschutes County Health Services that there are concerns the heroin may be laced with synthetic fentanyl, making the drug particularly lethal. The patients seen over the last day-and-a-half were critically ill and required unusually high doses of Naloxone (also known as Narcan) to be stabilized, officials said.

Abstaining from drug use is the best way to eliminate the risk of overdose. If you are concerned about a person using drugs, you can ask them about their willingness to begin medication-assisted treatment or drug treatment. For a list of providers, visit the Stay Safe Oregon website at https://staysafeoregon.com/.

  • Be prepared. Get Naloxone. Save Lives. Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped because of an overdose. You can get naloxone through these avenues:  • Any pharmacist in Oregon can prescribe naloxone to you. Call ahead for availability.
  • A medical provider can prescribe naloxone to you.

• People who utilize the Syringe Exchange Program can receive free naloxone. For details visit https://www.deschutes.org/health/page/syringe-exchange-program.

It is important to call 911 when someone is overdosing from opioids. If you use naloxone, the effects are temporary, and the person still needs to seek immediate medical attention. After the medication wears off, the person could fall back into a coma.

If you call police or 911 to get help for someone having a drug overdose, health officials stress that Oregon’s Good Samaritan Law protects you from being arrested or prosecuted for drug-related charges or parole/probation violations, based on information provided to emergency responders.

Health Services said it is working with community partners to conduct outreach to at-risk populations to share harm-reduction information.

St. Charles spokeswoman Lisa Goodman said she could not confirm the four overdoses involved heroin and said she did not know the patients’ current status.

Morgan Emerson, preparedness coordinator with Deschutes County Health Services, said St. Charles officials informed the county of the cluster of serious overdoses.

“Four overdoses in that period of time isn’t particularly alarming,” Emerson said. “What’s alarming to us is that these are very serious overdoses.”

Emerson noted the Oregon Health Authority is providing guidance and encouraging local health departments “to do more active surveillance” on opioid overdoses and prepare opioid response plans, to better let our community know what is occurring.

“The ideal harm reduction would be abstaining from drug use,” she said. “From there, if people are choosing to use opioids, we want them to be prepared with naloxone and to know how to use it, and for the public, knowing the signs and symptoms” of overdoses.

More harm-reduction resources:

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PREVENTIONWELLNESS/SUBSTANCEUSE/Pages/harm-reduction.aspx

https://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/