Rapid Rise of Fentanyl-Related Deaths in Delaware - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Rapid Rise of Fentanyl-Related Deaths in Delaware

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Gary Calloway describes his experience with heroin Gary Calloway describes his experience with heroin

308 people died from drug overdoses in Delaware in 2016. 120 of them contained fentanyl, a powerful synthetic painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin. Gary Calloway is a recovering addict and says the drug ruined his life.

"I lost everything," he tells WBOC. "I'm 58 years old and I have nothing to show for it."

Calloway says his addiction started when he was prescribed percocet -an opioid painkiller--for back pain. His dosage gradually increased from 5 milligrams a day to 30. His usage was so high that his doctor sent him to a pain treatment center to get his medicine injected. But when the center closed its doors, he turned to the street and started using heroin, some of it laced with fentanyl.

"A bad batch of heroin would come around and people were OD'ing on it." he recalled. "Well I'm looking for that, too. I want that feeling. That's how miserable life is being on this heroin." 

Pauline Powell with Attack Addiction says she's heard stories like Calloway's too many times to count.

"[Addicts] don't say "Well that's something I need to stay away from,'" she says. "They say, "How can I get my hands on it? It must give them a really good high.' And that frightening."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says deaths from synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, increased 72 percent from 2014 to 2015. In Delaware, the numbers are even more dramatic. In 2012, there were 15 fentanyl-related deaths. That number jumped 180 percent by 2015, where there were 42 fentanyl-related deaths. In 2016, there were 120 fentanyl-related deaths--a 186 percent increase.

The state encourages anyone struggling with addiction--or any of their family members--to visit www.HelpIsHereDE.com, the state's revamped website for addiction resources. People can also call the state's 24/7 Crisis Services Helpline. In Kent and Sussex counties, the number is 1-800-345-6785. In New Castle County, the number is 1-800-652-2929.

Powell and Calloway both say prescriber education is a key first step. Calloway says he urges doctors to find alternatives for opioids, citing his current treatment with a non-addictive painkiller.

"Why couldn't they have done that to me before all this happened to my life?" he asks. "Because I lost everything,"

For more on fentanyl and the state's statistics, click here

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