RCPD: Fentanyl overdoses become leading cause of death for ages 18-45 in 2021

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office shows...
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office shows fentanyl pills. Authorities say they've arrested Ryan Gaston, a man in a Cleveland suburb after seizing more than 900 fentanyl pills marked liked tablets of the less-potent opiate oxycodone. The Cuyahoga County medical examiner said that lookalike pills were likely to blame for some of the county's 19 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in January 2016. (Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office via AP)(AP)
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 4:35 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - After six overdoses in just two weeks, the Riley County Police Department has warned residents the leading cause of death for people between 18 and 45 is now fentanyl overdose.

The Riley County Police Department says in a Facebook post that officers have responded to six overdoses in just the past two weeks. The overdoses came from fake prescription pills made with fentanyl - usually Oxycodone or Xanax.

While none of the overdoses were fatal, RCPD said fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45. The drug overtook and doubled the leading cause of death in 2020 - suicide - in less than a year.

“We want to emphasize an individual who overdoses is not a suspect in our investigations,” said an RCPD spokesperson. “The goal is to identify, apprehend and prosecute the distributor and the distribution network.”

RCPD uses statute KSA 21-5430 to investigate overdoses. Distribution of a controlled substance that causes great bodily harm is categorized as a level 5 person felony and the distribution of a controlled substance that causes death is a level 1 person felony.

RCPD said there are distinct differences between legitimate and counterfeit drugs. It said drug networks mass produce these fake pills and falsely market them. The only safe medications are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.

As of April 2021, RCPD said fentanyl fatalities increased by nearly 50% in just 12 months and surpassed 64,000 deaths. The drug fatally poisons around 175 people per day and is tied to 64% of drug fatalities. Four out of every 10 pills with fentanyl contain a dose that could be lethal.

If anyone has information about the distribution of fentanyl or counterfeit pills, they can submit an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers at 785-539-7777 or contact RCPD at 785-537-2112 and ask to speak with the Special Investigations Unit.

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