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HEALTH Investigating New Synthetic Drug

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH), with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is beginning an investigation into a cluster of deaths that appear to be related to the use of a new synthetic drug. In light of this situation, HEALTH and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) are encouraging Rhode Islanders to be aware of Narcan (Naloxone), an antidote to opioid abuse that is available without a prescription.

"Although the information we have at this time is quite limited, out of an abundance of caution, we feel it's important that all Rhode Islanders be aware of this potential threat, but more importantly, of the availability of Narcan," said Michael Fine, M.D. "A drug overdose is often a life-or-death situation and Narcan is a valuable resource that can help save lives."

The Office of the Medical Examiner has noted 10 deaths since early March of patients who appear to have died with this new synthetic substance in their bodies. Most of these patients are from the northern Rhode Island area, and appear to have been intravenous drug users.

Narcan is available at four Walgreens Pharmacies in Warwick as part of a pilot project for the dispensing of naloxone to patients by pharmacists who have a collaborative agreement with practitioners at the Miriam Hospital.

Addiction and the potential for overdose are serious health threats among Rhode Islanders who use illicit drugs or abuse prescription medications.

"BHDDH shares the Department of Health's concern for this potential threat and stands ready to provide assistance to those in need," said BHDDH Director Craig Stenning. "We encourage individuals with substance use disorders, their families and loved ones, and involved professionals to seek the treatment that could save lives."

Help is available for those who are addicted to drugs, are concerned that they may be addicted, or know someone who is addicted. A list of resources that can assist with drug dependence and addiction can be found at http://www.bhddh.ri.gov/SA/application.php

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Related links

Department or agency: Department of Health

Online: http://www.health.ri.gov

Release date: 05-10-2013

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