"These are being illicitly prepared:" Medical Examiner says 19 deaths related to Fentanyl since December

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- Milwaukee County is seeing a dramatic spike in deaths related to the drug Fentanyl. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating 19 deaths related to Fentanyl since December 28, 2015.

Officials say many of these victims may have been unaware they were taking the drug.

"The individuals don't know that this is the substance that they're being sold they believe that they're purchasing a product that is heroin but they're being sold a product that is much more potent," said Sara Schreiber, forensic technical director at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office.

It's called Fentanyl -- and according to the DEA, it's 30-50 times more potent than heroin.

"The amount of drug that's needed to cause death is much smaller," said Schreiber.

Schreiber says traditionally, Fentanyl is a prescription drug given to patients suffering from chronic pain, sometimes in the form of a patch. But that's not how it's showing up in these victims.

Sara Schreiber

"The substances that we're seeing through are powders, this isn't extracted from a patch, these are being illicitly prepared and are then available to be sold as or mixed with other drug preparations on the illicit market," said Schreiber.

In 2014, the Milwaukee County ME's Office investigated 16 Fentanyl related deaths. That number jumped to 28 in 2015. But it's now claiming victims at a much more rapid rate.

"Like this is a pretty good number of cases for six weeks," said Schreiber.

Schreiber says in the past, Fentanyl was the lone substance behind many deaths. But now, they're seeing more victims who also head other substances in their systems.


FOX6 News spoke with Alderman Michael Murphy about this issue. He has a plan to address the issue.

"It focuses really not only on Fentanyl but oxycodone and obviously heroin," said Murphy.

He's raising money to create a position that would work with law enforcement and health professionals to attack the problem on multiple fronts.

"I'm in the final stages and will shortly announce the number of partners and it's more than 50,000 I've been able to raise," said Murphy.

Of the 19 deaths, none appear to be related to the misuse of a Fentanyl patch, but are from the illicit use of controlled substances and poly-drug abuse.

The 19 deaths are broken down as follows: