EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Health officials say non-fatal opioid overdoses are on the rise in Rhode Island and they believe a surge of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl may be to blame.
Between Aug. 12-18, the Rhode Island Health Department reported 44 suspected, non-fatal overdoses.
On average, there are 42 overdoses per week in Rhode Island. Of the recently reported overdoses, 18 occurred in Providence where the weekly average is 16. In Coventry, Cranston and West Warwick there were a combined eight non-fatal overdoses, which is on pair with the region’s weekly average.
Health officials say 21 of the 44 people who overdosed received toxicology screenings. Of those 21 people, 19 tested positive for fentanyl.
The spike in overdoses may be attributed to the increase of counterfeit pills in circulation that may contain lethal amounts of fentanyl, according to the health department. The pills – which are sold illegally – look almost identical to opioid prescription pain medications.
“There is no such thing as a clean drug. When you use an illegal drug, you never know what substance or substances you are putting into your body,” R.I. Health Department Deputy Director Ana Novais said.
Health officials say fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin.
Last year, 72% of overdose deaths in Rhode Island involved fentanyl, according to the health department.