Fentanyl found in most DuPage OD deaths in 2021, and some victims taking 4-15 types of drugs, coroner says – Chicago Tribune

Heroin is taking the back seat to the more potent and synthetic opioid fentanyl, DuPage County Coroner Dr. Richard Jorgensen said.
Statistics from the coroner’s office show DuPage County had one death in 2021 from heroin alone compared to 29 deaths from fentanyl alone.
That’s a big shift given that in 2015 most opioid deaths involved heroin, Jorgensen said.
Of the 51 deaths that year, reports show 36 were caused by heroin alone, seven were a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, and eight were fentanyl alone.
“Now (in 2021) we had 83 out of the 102 opioid deaths (with) fentanyl in it, so the fentanyl has become the drug of choice out there,” Jorgensen said. “Heroin has kind of become the additive drug, a minor drug, as opposed to being the major.”
The Will County Coroner’s Office recorded no deaths from heroin alone in 2020 and 2021. But 27 of the 84 opioid overdose deaths in 2020 and 30 of the 111 opioid deaths in 2021 reportedly were from fentanyl intoxication, data shows.
The reason for the shift from heroin to illicit fentanyl is because heroin, a natural substance derived from the opium poppy plant, is more expensive to make and to bring into the country than its synthetic counterpart fentanyl, Jorgensen said.
Another trend, he said, is in the number of legal and illegal drugs being consumed.
Toxicology reports are returning with at least four or five different drugs, and Jorgensen said it’s becoming more common to find 10 to15 prescription and nonprescription drugs.
“It was hard for me to categorize these deaths because there’s so many different drugs in there. It’s hard to kind of put it into a box of what actually caused the death,” he said.
Cocaine saw an uptick in 2021.
Seventy-one of the 147 overdose deaths in Will County involved cocaine in 2021, up from 45 of 125 overdose deaths the previous year.
“We’re seeing a lot more cocaine and mixtures of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine,” Jorgensen said.
Cocaine was reported as the sole cause of death in DuPage County in six cases in 2020 and nine in 2021.
The number of deaths in DuPage from a mixture of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine rose by three to 17 in 2021, while the deaths from fentanyl and cocaine remained the same at 16 in 2020 and 2021.
Jorgensen said the age of people dying from drug overdoses is getting older.
In 2013, overdose drug deaths were mainly people in their 20s and 30s, he said.
“But now it’s shifted to the 30s, 40s and 50s, and there’s actually more people that died in their 50s than in their 20s by quite a bit,” he said.
Jorgensen said he’s not sure the reason for the swing in ages.
“I’m hoping that it means that there’s less people getting involved in these life-threatening drugs,” perhaps through prevention programs, he said.
The number of fatal overdoses in Naperville declined over the last three years from four in 2019 and five in 2020 to two in 2021.
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