Medical examiner: 343 drug-related deaths in 2016, 97 of them from fentanyl

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office revealed on Tuesday, March 21st the final numbers for drug deaths in Milwaukee County in 2016.

There were 343 overall drug deaths -- with 148 heroin-related and 97 fentanyl-related deaths in 2016. The 97 deaths related to fentanyl is an increase of 223 percent from 2015.

"In the last three years, deaths from those things have quintupled, and of our overdoses last year, about a third was from fentanyl derivatives.  You may think you`re buying a tablet of oxycodone, but it's actually fentanyl and that pretty much means you're going to die immediately is the problem," Brian Peterson, medical examiner said.

The medical examiner said the appeal of fentanyl is it is significantly cheaper. He estimated the price of a pound of heroin to be $60,000, while a pound of fentanyl would be a couple thousand.

The 148 heroin deaths in Milwaukee County in 2016 is a 35 percent increase from 2015, when there were 110 heroin deaths.

In 2015, 255 people died as a result of drug overdoses.

This epidemic is being taken up by a task force in Milwaukee -- made up of city leaders, heath officials and community organizers.

Dr. Andy Anderson, chief medical officer at Aurora Health Care, has worked with the state's opioid task force, and said health professionals are taking note, prescribing fewer opioids. He said he is hopeful.

"Overall we've seen decreasing numbers in terms of opioid prescriptions, so we think we're making progress and it's kind of a situation where we have to wait, and over time I think we'll see less of the overdose deaths," Dr. Anderson said.


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