30 fatal overdoses reported in Duluth this year, prompting safety warning

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Fatal overdoses remain on the rise in Duluth as each calendar quarter more and more incidents are being reported.

This year 30 fatal overdoses were reported in Duluth, two of which were caused by counterfeit Percocet pills containing fentanyl. All this, now prompting a safety warning from the Duluth police department and other groups.

Jess Nickila Lead Peer Recovery Specialist says, "Opioids continue to flood our community and we still have a stark lack of resources when it comes to folks who go through substance use disorder."

With the rise of overdoses the department has continued to announce that the only trustworthy medications are the ones prescribed by doctors.

For Jess Nickila, drug misuse is a real and present danger. She says, "It breaks my heart because I know these people. One of the fatal ones a couple weeks ago; One of our peers was with [him] hours before he experienced a fatal overdose."

And with more public attention on the opioid crisis Jess says there have been improvements in the fight. She says, "The biggest preventer of fatal overdoses is NARCAN.”

She explains, "It is the overdose reversal drug for opioid overdoses. So when someone is experiencing and opioid overdose it’s just the opioids block the receptors that trigger their lungs’ urge to breathe.”

NARCAN then frees up those receptors allowing the person to breathe. The inhalant is used even on the law enforcement level. Commander Jeff Kazel of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force says, “We’ve trained and supplied many law enforcement agencies with NARCAN and here in Duluth we’ve saved over 200 lives since 2016."

But even with a reversal agent the numbers of drug misuse and overdoses continue to rise.
Jess Nickila says, “This is the most fatal quarter we’ve ever had on record. And I will say it again at the end of this quarter it just continues to happen. So yeah we have made a lot of strides but there is still a whole bunch of work to be done.”