Fentanyl epidemic in Chicago, Illinois and surrounding Cook County.Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2008 Jul; 46(6):501-6.CT
Epidemics related to illicit fentanyl abuse have been reported and the potential exists for a national epidemic associated with high mortality. This report describes emergency department visits for opioid toxicity and a recent outbreak of illicit fentanyl fatalities in Chicago, Illinois and surrounding Cook County.
Retrospective chart review of opioid-related overdoses seen in our emergency department and a retrospective review of data from the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office Fentanyl Fatality Database from April 2005 through December 2006.
Our emergency department treated 43 patients with a total of 55 emergency department visits during this time. Paramedic transport was utilized for 83.6% of the emergency department visits and naloxone was administered during 80.4% of transports. Naloxone was administered during 47.3% of emergency department visits with total doses ranging from 0.4 mg to 12 mg. Eighty percent of cases were treated and discharged from the emergency department. During this same time frame, the Medical Examiner's office identified 342 fentanyl-related fatalities. In 2006, illicit fentanyl fatalities represented 6.9% of all Medical Examiner cases for that year. Approximately 80% of deaths occurred in Chicago. A peak in fentanyl-related deaths occurred in the spring of 2006 and again in the fall of 2006 while the number of emergency department visits peaked during May of 2006.
Chicago and surrounding Cook County experienced an outbreak of 342 fentanyl-related deaths between April 2005 and December 2006. The experience demonstrated a clear need for an interdisciplinary approach to identifying, communicating, and managing an outbreak.