Denver is experiencing a surge in overdose deaths related to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than heroin.

Between January and May, the city saw a 282% increase in fentanyl-related overdose fatalities compared with the same time period last year, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment reports.

“Overdoses caused by fentanyl can happen faster and are harder to stop than those caused by other opioids,” city officials advised in a press release Wednesday morning. “The drug can come in many forms, including pills, capsules, rock, and pure powders. It cannot be seen, tasted or smelled when mixed with other drugs.”

Denver’s health department in partnership with the Denver Police Department other partners have been monitoring the Denver area for the presence of fentanyl “with the goal of reducing the risk of overdose death in the community.”

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have become a major problem nationwide. More than 31,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids occurred in the U.S. in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Denver’s public health department urges anyone who uses fentanyl or knows someone else who does to share this warning and make sure they have naloxone, the medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, available.

Here are more ways DDPHE advises residents should stay protected:

  • Carry naloxone (Narcan) and make sure those around you carry naloxone. You can find out where to purchase it at
  • Don’t use alone: If you do, let someone know so they can check on you.
  • Avoid mixing drugs: Don’t mix opioids with alcohol and/or benzodiazepines.
  • Test a small amount of the substance before using it.
  • If injecting, inject slower.
  • Assume street-purchased medications may be counterfeit and may contain fentanyl. Don’t assume it’s the same strength as prescription medications.
  • If you think someone may have overdosed, administer naloxone and call 911.
  • Connect with others and stay connected.
  • Substance-use treatment is effective and is available.

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