WISCONSIN (WFRV) – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has issued a public health advisory to inform Wisconsinites about the increase in the number of deaths caused by drugs laced with synthetic substances, especially fentanyl.

According to a release, fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Since it is strong and cheap to produce, people who manufacture illegal drugs use fentanyl to make other drugs more powerful and less expensive to make.

Fentanyl is able to be added to pills, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs.

DHS data shows that in 2021, synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were identified in 91% of opioid overdose deaths in Wisconsin, and in 73% of all overdose deaths. From 2019 to 2021, the number of fentanyl deaths in the state rose up by 97%.

“As we continue our work to promote mental health, reduce harm, and increase support for those struggling with substance use disorders, we can’t ignore the greater risks people face by not knowing what is included in the drugs they are taking,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “This is a public health crisis, and it’s necessary to sound the alarm to prevent unnecessary deaths.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services supports a comprehensive set of strategies to support healthy communities, prevent death, and reduce harm related to substance use. Governor Tony Evers decriminalized fentanyl test strips to test a substance for fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is very strong, and it doesn’t take a lot to cause an overdose. Plus, the amount of fentanyl in drugs is completely random, even in the same supply”, said Dr. Jasmine Zapata, Chief Medical Officer in the DHS Bureau of Community Health Promotion. “We encourage people who use substances to get fentanyl test strips and use them to know if the drug they intend to use is laced with the substance.”

Those interested in getting test strips can contact the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline here.

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With Sunday, August 21 being International Fentanyl Awareness and Prevention Day, the DHS will be providing several informational videos on their social media platforms (Facebook & Twitter).

For more information about the public advisory, you can visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ website here.