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Public health agency reports increase in ODs, warns of possible new drug in crack cocaine

Wisconsin State Journal - 6/6/2024

Jun. 6—The Madison and Dane County public health department is warning of an increase in opioid overdoses in recent days, as well as the possibility that crack cocaine being sold in the area might include a new, synthetic drug already showing up in other Midwestern cities.

In the last 48 hours, at least 10 people received treatment at local hospitals for suspected opioid overdoses, Public Health Madison and Dane County said in a news release issued at 4 p.m. Thursday. Agency spokesperson Morgan Finke said the county typically sees two to four overdoses a day.

In addition, first responders treated seven other people who reported a variety of unusual symptoms including drowsiness, nausea, sedation and weakness after using crack cocaine, which usually has the opposite effects.

"We are monitoring similar incidents reported by health officials in Milwaukee and Chicago linked to a synthetic drug called Medetomidine, a powerful animal tranquilizer," public health supervisor Julia Olsen said in the news release. "We often see drug traffic patterns in larger neighboring cities eventually affect Madison, so this is something we want our communities to know about."

Finke said the agency has not confirmed the synthetic drug is in the Madison area's crack supply.

Public health officials said drug users and their families can go to the agency's website to sign up for alerts about increases in overdoses.

"The county and the city are working together to build focused efforts to prevent and address the troubling increase in overdose deaths in our community," Dane County Executive Jamie Kuhn said in the news release. "Increasing awareness and communication about safer drug use is one of those strategies."

Signs of an overdose include pale, sweaty or clammy skin; lips or fingertips that have turned blue; slow or irregular breathing; and difficulty staying awake.

The public health agency offers free fentanyl test strips and the opioid-reversal drug Narcan at its offices at 2705 E. Washington Ave. and 2300 S. Park St. in Madison.

Thursday's alert was the first this year for overdoes, the agency said.

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