Drug Danger: Even Proper Use Can Kill

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fentanyl patchA powerful painkiller is raising red flags in western Wisconsin after an increase in the number of overdoses. There have been a string of deaths from Fentanyl overdoses. Some have been intentional, some were not.

In September, Dr. Susan Momont was found dead in her Eau Claire home. Her husband has now been charged with providing the Fentanyl that caused her death.

The St. Croix County medical examiner says three people have died in his county since this spring. Last week, the Chippewa County district attorney said a man there died from an overdose, which may have been a suicide.

Fentanyl has been around for decades, but some law enforcement agencies say they've seen a spike it its abuse in the past year or two. In some cases, addicts mix Fentanyl with heroin, which can be very deadly. But experts say, even someone using the painkiller properly can put their life at risk.

"There's a very fine line between someone using it for recreational purposes illegally and someone dying from it," says Casey Swetlik, St. Croix County medical examiner. "[It's] 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. So it deserves one's respect and attention. That's for sure."

Even someone using the drug properly can die from it. Bruce Bond's wife, Shirleyann, was prescribed Fentanyl after being diagnosed with cancer.

"It was doing a wonderful job for her as far as taking away the pain and everything," says Bonds.

But then, his wife made one mistake that turned out to be deadly. "She had quite a bit of pain and she changed her patches that night and then laid down a heat pad because she was chilly and she never woke up in the morning," says Bonds.

Among the medication's many warnings is one that instructs patients not to use Fentanyl with a heating pad, which can cause the drug to release too quickly. Swetlik says he doesn't believe all doctors are doing a good enough job of explaining the risks and responsibilities that go along with the drug. Swetlik says he doesn't want to make Fentanyl out to be a bad drug because it can do wonders for patients. Even Bonds says he's glad the drug was able to numb his wife's pain.

source - ABC News