Coroner: Fatal Overdoses From Heroin Substitute On the Rise

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The coroner in Ohio’s largest county is seeing a rise in deaths from the powerful painkiller fentanyl.

The Cuyahoga County medical examiner’s office in northeast Ohio says deaths from the fentanyl jumped from five in 2013 to 39 last year. And statistics released Wednesday show there have already been more than a dozen fentanyl-related deaths this year.

Fentanyl is sometimes sold as heroin or is mixed with heroin and is especially dangerous for drug users unaware of what they are ingesting or injecting. A National Institutes of Health website says fentanyl should only be prescribed to cancer patients who fail to get relief from other pain medications.

The medical examiner’s office says naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, is available free through a Cleveland hospital program.