PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has confirmed two additional deaths linked to Acetanilide, n-1-Phenethyl-4-Piperidyl — also known as acetyl fentanyl —an illegal synthetic opiate with properties similar to morphine. These most recent deaths, which bring the total number of deaths linked to this drug in Rhode Island to 14, occurred on May 26, 2013 in two individuals who were transported from the same residence in southern Rhode Island.
"While final cause of death is still pending further toxicology testing, it is anticipated that acetyl fentanyl will be a significant factor in these deaths," said Michael Fine, M.D., director of HEALTH.
The Rhode Island State Health Laboratories identified this drug as Acetanilide, n-1-Phenethyl-4-Piperidyl — or, acetyl fentanyl — on May 30, 2013. This drug is not FDA approved, is not commercially available, and is not prescribed by physicians.
The Office of the Medical Examiner initially noted 10 deaths of patients who appear to have died with this substance in their bodies during a time period spanning early March to mid-April, and later confirmed an eleventh death during the same time period, as well as a twelfth related death that occurred on May 16. Most of these patients were from the northern Rhode Island area, and appear to have been intravenous drug users.
Dr. Fine said it is important that Rhode Islanders understand that drug addiction is a very serious chronic disease for which help and treatment resources are available.
He added that those who are addicted to drugs or who know someone who is addicted should educate themselves about the use of Narcan (Naloxone), an emergency antidote to opioid overdose. Narcan, which can be used in an emergency situation to potentially reverse the effects of drug overdose, 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.
A list of resources that can assist with drug dependence and addiction can be found at http://www.bhddh.ri.gov/SA/application.php