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Fentanyl, not Heroin, responsible for majority of deadly Milwaukee Co. overdoses

For the first time in more than 5 years, heroin is not the leading cause of overdose death in Milwaukee County.

Instead, the powerful drug Fentanyl is setting the pace. The Medical Examiner's Office says 144 people have died so far this year by overdosing on Fentanyl. 

It's a sharp contrast from five years ago, when the number of Fentanyl overdose deaths could be counted on one hand.

    "It's much more commonplace than it used to be," says Bell Ambulance Paramedic Jason Flegner. "A few years ago, heroin was the big thing, but it seems to be more and more prescription medications, like Fentanyl. 

Fentanyl is a powerful drug typically prescribed to people with chronic pain. It's known to be between 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. 

Last year, it was responsible for 97 overdose deaths. This year, it's on pace for 192. 

    "It's easier to get Fentanyl usually than it is heroin," says Flegner. "It's a fantastic drug for pain, but we have to find that balance where we're not abusing it as well."

The new numbers come the same day as city leaders roll out a push for more drug drop off boxes, aimed at cutting off access points to drugs like Fentanyl. 

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