OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Unintentional fentanyl overdose deaths in the state of Oklahoma have skyrocketed in recent years. According to the CDC, deaths from the deadly drug have reached almost 700 from April 2022 to April 2023.
“Mothers and fathers are losing their children. Children are losing their brothers and sisters,” said Dr. George Monks, former President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. “So, we’ve got to get control of this situation.”
An Oklahoma State Department of Health graphic shows the staggering and sharp spike in unintentional fentanyl overdoses starting after 2019, when there were just below 50 deaths.
“I think it’s a really tough problem,” Monks said.
The synthetic opioid easily surpasses every other drug listed in the years after. OSDH tells KFOR that preliminary 2022 data shows a massive jump to 604 deaths due to the drug, though that is still being finalized.
“Fentanyl is so often laced in many other drugs that, you know, people that are users aren’t aware of,” Monks said.
“Our message is pretty clear in that we have to connect people to treatment and resources in their area,” Bonnie Campo with the State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said.
CDC data paints a clearer picture. There were 440 deaths between April of 2021 and April of 2022.
The next year in that same span, they show deaths jumping to 680.
Campo said they have campaigns that contribute to awareness of the ongoing issue. They provide naloxone that reverses opioid overdoses and connect people to treatment as well.
“You absolutely have to expect and test for fentanyl,” she said. “We have the fentanyl test strips and then carry naloxone.”
This, as everyone works to slow the current troubling trend down.
“Since 2008, we’ve lost 250,000 Americans to fentanyl overdose in the United States,” Monks said. “We’ve lost over 100,000 just in the last year. That’s 200 deaths a day. That’s one fentanyl overdose death every 7 minutes.”
This past summer, the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office announced it would be charging user-to-user fentanyl overdose deaths as first degree manslaughter.
Campo said they are also seeing a lot of meth-related overdose issues as well.