McLean County saw a slight drop in overdose deaths last year, but the coroner said the spread of powerful narcotics remains a problem.
Coroner Kathleen Yoder said she's seeing more deaths tied to fentanyl, and in some cases users might not know that's what they are ingesting.
“The buyer who is addicted to an opioid may be thinking that they are getting heroin or they may be thinking they are getting a Vicodin or a Norco and actually (they are getting) synthetically made fentanyl,” Yoder said.
The county had 24 overdoses in 2019, with three more unconfirmed cases. That's down from 28 deaths the year before and 40 in 2017, when the county saw a spike in fentanyl becoming mixed with heroin.
Yoder said it appears more people struggling to get prescription pain medications are turning to the black market.
She attributes the overall drop to doctors becoming more cautious about prescribing pain meds because of the opioid epidemic.
She added there's also better public education about their harmful effects and addicts becoming more willing to seek treatment.
“It’s not being not stigmatized with society knowing this is an addiction and that they do need help,” Yoder said.
Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois, Yoder said she wants to see if it impacts deaths rates through motor vehicle crashes, suicides and falls.
“There’s so much dialogue between for and against (legal marijuana),” Yoder said. “We’re not for or against. We just want to look at the data to see if there is an uptick or not an uptick.”
Yoder said her office plans to review all of the county's toxicology reports from the last two years and plans to compare it with deaths in 2020.
She said toxicology tests already measure THC, the mind-altering compound in marijuana, but she said her office never tracked it because marijuana use itself isn't fatal.
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