State, Local Officials Report Sharp Increase in Overdoses in Recent Weeks and now the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and the Montana Department of Justice (DOJ), and local law enforcement is warning the public.

In this most recent surge from January 11 to January 23, a total of 28 non-fatal and eight fatal overdoses, likely due to opioids, have happened in 13 different counties affecting people aged 24 to 60 years old. Identified overdoses occurred in Cascade, Choteau, Custer, Flathead, Gallatin, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Ravalli, Sheridan, Silver Bow, Yellowstone, and Mineral counties.

“Like states across the nation, Montana has seen an alarming rise in fentanyl and opioid use and, as a result, a tragic loss of life. As families grieve the loss of loved ones, I ask Montanans to help get the word out that one pill can kill,” Governor Greg Gianforte said.

In the recent surge, many of those who experienced an overdose were noted to have a history of substance misuse. Five of the eight fatalities involved females. Decedents were likely using opioids while alone and were found by bystanders too late for the successful application of the opioid reversal drug, naloxone, the Governor’s office reports.

“Initial reports note the presence of pills, commonly referred to as M30 pills because of the way they are marked, which likely contain illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic, short-acting opioid analgesic intended to treat severe pain in individuals with cancer. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Counterfeit pills containing fentanyl are becoming increasingly common nationally, and in Montana, and are taken by people who misuse diverted prescription opioids as well as those who inject, smoke, or snort drugs,” according to law enforcement.

Naloxone reversal may only be temporary, so 9-1-1 should still be called. Signs of an overdose include: slow or no heartbeat, loss of consciousness and pinpoint eye pupils are a few.