Alarming number of La Crosse County overdose deaths prompts warning

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — In just a week, three people in La Crosse County have died from an opioid overdose. County medical examiner Timothy Candahl has issued an advisory statement to the public for families with members who struggle with addiction.

In 2021, 34 people in La Crosse County died from drug overdoses. Most ingested a lethal amount of fentanyl.

“Even one overdose death is too many,” said Chris Eberlein, an emergency medical physician at Gundersen Health System, said.

Candahl says the county is on pace to top those numbers.

“The numbers are alarming. Two months into the new year, and we’re at 10 already,” Candahl said.

By 2029, national reports predict 1.2 million people will die from opioid overdoses.

“I’d definitely say we have a problem here with fentanyl,” Candahl said.

Fentanyl is a highly addictive narcotic that is more potent and cheaper to distribute than heroin.

“The risk of death goes exponentially higher,” Eberlein said.

Opioid-related deaths have gone up in since the pandemic, he said.

“We had been seeing a steady decrease in opioid overdose deaths over the last several years until the pandemic hit,” Eberlein said.

In some cases, the effects of fentanyl can be reversed with Narcan, but only when it’s available.

“Initially in the pandemic it was harder to get the resources you needed,” Eberlein said.

If you’re struggling with addiction, Eberlein advises not using alone.

“If you’re going to use, then make sure you use with someone that stays sober that can back you up and call 911 and provide Narcan,” Eberlein said.

Better yet, Eberlein says reach out and ask for help. Local resources are available, and free overdose kits with Narcan can be found at hospitals in case of an emergency.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration line at (800) 662-4357.

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