PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is sounding the alarm over a significant spike in nonfatal overdoses within the last week.
Health officials reported Wednesday that 40 people overdosed this past week alone, 21 of which occurred in Providence.
“This is the second-highest week we’ve had so far in the last year, so it’s noteworthy,” RIDOH Medical Director Dr. James McDonald said.
The Health Department issued a public health advisory for the capital city after reviewing last week’s data.
McDonald believes the reason for the uptick is likely due to fentanyl.
“It’s fentanyl that’s driving this,” he explained. “It’s not the fentanyl you’re getting in the hospital or when you’re having your colonoscopy. It’s the same drug, but it’s not that. It’s illicit fentanyl that’s manufactured in other countries.”
McDonald said drug dealers are likely mixing fentanyl into the pills they’re distributing, which makes them stronger and much more lethal.
Under the public health advisory, McDonald said a variety of strategies are used to reach those who are affected.
“Telling someone not to do drugs is like telling someone with diabetes, ‘well, just don’t be diabetic,'” McDonald explained. “It’s much harder than that.”
There are several things those struggling with opioid addiction can do to protect themselves, including carrying the overdose reversal drug naloxone and having another person with them while using.
“It’s a challenging time,” McDonald said. “If you’re a loved one and you know someone who is struggling with opioid use, they don’t need your judgement. What they do need is a little help getting into treatment.”
In Providence, McDonald said those looking for help can visit one of the city’s 12 Safe Stations, where they can get connected to several resources.