JACKSONVILLE — State poison control officials are putting out a frightening warning to recreational-drug users: There is more than a 1 in 4 chance you could ingest a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl.
The concern is heightened because the removal of pandemic restrictions is ushering in the season of music festivals, during which use of non-prescribed opioids and benzodiazepines tends to be more casual.
Two of the largest festivals will be in Chicago: Lollapalooza starting July 29 and Riot Fest starting Sept. 17.
"Some people think it's no big deal to experiment just once for a special occasion," Illinois Poison Center Medical Director Michael Wahl said. "Your first time could be your last time. Just two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill you, and it's even more lethal in combination with other substances, such as alcohol."
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid often used in production of counterfeit drugs because it is inexpensive and easy to produce. Potentially lethal doses have been found in 26% of counterfeit prescription pills, according to lab analysis by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Law enforcement authorities said they have seen fentanyl being mixed into counterfeit pills and powders such as Percocet, OxyContin, Xanax and Adderall — substances popular with teenagers and young adults.
"These pills often look very similar to legitimate prescription medication," Illinois Poison Center Assistant Vice President Carol DesLauriers said. "You think you're having fun, but you're gambling with your life."
Drug overdose deaths in Illinois increased 27% between December 2019 and this past December, according to preliminary statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of the deaths involved opioids and synthetic opioids.
Nationwide, overdose deaths rose by 30% during the same time.
Health officials caution against using prescription drugs that were not prescribed, especially those available online. It is suggested those who may be around opioid users make sure naloxone, commonly known by its brand name of Narcan, is available. The drug is a reversal agent for opioid overdoses.
Emergency medical care should always be sought for suspected overdoses. Illinois allows people to seek emergency medical treatment for an overdose without facing arrest for possession under its Emergency Medical Services Access Law.