Oneida Co. Sheriff: Drugs laced with fentanyl circulating in northern Wisconsin

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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) -- After a suspected overdose death in Oneida County on Tuesday, Captain Terri Hook with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office is warning the public about heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine laced with fentanyl circulating in Oneida County and surrounding counties.

"We actually have drugs in our evidence room that are heroin, cocaine or meth that have been mixed with fentanyl," Hook noted. "What you think is happening somewhere else is actually happening here."

Hook said she believes the drugs have been circulating for the last couple months in the area, an issue that makes an already-dangerous and illegal habit much more risky.

"You don't have any idea how much fentanyl, how much heroin, how much cocaine, how much meth you're getting. That's why it's such a deadly combination...They are taking the risk that they have a deadly dose in whatever they're using," Hook noted.

NewsChannel 7 has reached out to the Vilas and Forest County Sheriff departments to determine whether other counties are finding confirmed reports of fentanyl-laced drugs, and will update this article with more information if we hear back. The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office says they have not had recently-confirmed reports of the issue at this time.

Lt. Melinda Pauls with the Wausau Police Department says most of the heroin they've field tested this year has tested positive for fentanyl as well. However, Pauls says the tests conducted on other drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine are only field-tested for the drug they appear to be, so it's difficult to determine whether Wausau is seeing other drugs besides heroin that are laced with fentanyl.

The WPD is aware of about 15 overdoses in Wausau this year, out of which there have been a couple deaths, according to Pauls. Most of the overdoses seen in Wausau have been brought back through Naloxone injections, a drug that helps cancel the effects of overdoses.

According to the National Institute of Health, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine. In its prescription form, it is used for severe pain management. According to a 2018 study, almost half of all opioid-related overdose deaths involved fentanyl in 2016, up from 14% in 2010. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most of those deaths are linked to illegally-made fentanyl, and is often illegally mixed with heroin and cocaine to enhance the drug's effects.