"Dangerous substance:" 10 recent deaths in Milwaukee County attributed to furanyl fentanyl

MILWAUKEE -- Over the past two months, 10 people in the Milwaukee area have died after using "furanyl fentanyl," officials with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office announced Thursday, February 16th.

The medical examiner said heroin and cocaine are being mixed with a different type of fentanyl -- a synthetic drug which makes the heroin/cocaine extremely potent and lethal.

Dazja Wheeler

"His addiction has been following him since his early 20s I would say," said Dazja Wheeler, whose father died of an overdose.

At the age of 53, Robert Wheeler's died from an overdose. An autopsy revealed he had cocaine mixed with furanyl fentanyl in his system.

"So I go to wake him -- 'Dad, Dad wake up' and nothing. I reached down to find a pulse gone," said Dazja Wheeler.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office has handled 10 overdose cases over the past two months where cocaine or heroin was mixed with furanyl fentanyl -- a synthetic drug which increases the potency. Mixing in fentanyl is dangerous enough, but now, illegal drug labs have changed a compound which could make it especially lethal.

Robert Wheeler

Users most likely don't even know it's there.

"I would not be surprised that they thought they purchased heroin, for example, and it was also laced with or cut with or adulterated with fentanyl," said Sara Schreiber with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office.

Sara Schreiber

The medical examiner wants users and their friends and family to know the street drugs are not what they used to be.

"It's definitely a dangerous substance, especially if you don't know it's there when you use it," said Schreiber.

It meant that Dazja Wheeler's son will grow up without his grandfather, and her father left her with lasting pain.

"I've always been the one he could call to get help with this, that and the other, but this was the one thing I could not help with," said Dazja Wheeler.


Robert Wheeler's daughter said her father's mother, brother and sister died under similar circumstances. Still, that couldn't stop her father from using. She hopes when others realize how deadly the stuff out there is, someone will listen.

Milwaukee County was witness to nearly 80 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016. That was a 120 percent increase from 2015.

"This has to stop. It's just awful. It's just awful to see this many people die from such a preventable death," Karen Domagalski with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office told FOX6 News on December 29th.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, CLICK HERE to access resources related to the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Dose of Reality campaign.