Heartland sheriff says national fentanyl epidemic is impacting southern Ill.

The fentanyl epidemic impacting southern Illinois
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 10:58 PM CDT|Updated: May. 8, 2023 at 11:04 PM CDT
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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - The fentanyl epidemic has been sweeping the United States, and one Heartland sheriff says it’s now hitting southern Illinois.

But how potent is fentanyl?

Counselor Supervisor Chantel Fullilove at the Gateway Foundation in Carbondale, Ill. said it’s easy to overdose on fentanyl since you only need a small amount.

Fullilove added that the foundation is noticing more and more clients with fentanyl in their systems.

“What Gateway has been noticing is that it’s been a rise,” Fullilove said. “A lot of our clients, right, some of them don’t even know the things that they’re using has fentanyl in it.”

The CDC says fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Diederich said fentanyl has been an ongoing issue across southern Illinois.

“Fentanyl can be laced to any drug. It typically is found in drugs such as heroin--it’s a big thing,” Diedrich said. “Unbeknownst to the user, that can have an affect.”

Diederich added that it is difficult to know if fentanyl is laced to other drugs on the street.

“The problem that we face with fentanyl is that it can be topically absorbed: it can be injected, it can be swallowed--it can come in a number of different forms: liquid, pills and so forth,” Diederich said. “The difficult part with fentanyl is that we don’t always know that it’s present.”

According to the CDC, over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Despite this, Fullilove said there is help available.

“We’re here to help. If you’re struggling with an addiction, if you’re having issues, give Gateway a call--talk to your loved ones,” Fullilove said. “It’s very important that you all stay safe out there.”

Leaders say that Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and save lives. It is available in all 50 states.

May 9 serves as Fentanyl Awareness Day.