Counterfeit pills made to look like other prescription drugs, such as methamphetamine and oxycodone, have killed eight people by overdose in Montana.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported the deaths Monday in an emailed alert to Montana healthcare providers.

Blue M30 pills (likely manufactured fentanyl pressed into counterfeit pills) were located nearby several of the decedents, DPHHS said. Such blue pills containing fentanyl have been used illicitly for smoking, injection and swallowing. Fentanyl often has been mixed with other illicit drugs, including methamphetamine, so users don’t know what drugs they are getting or how potent the dose is.

Fentanyl is an opioid pain drug that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is medically approved for managing severe and chronic pain. But most cases of fentanyl deaths have been linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Fentanyl is so potent and potentially lethal that first responders are cautioned to wear gloves to avoid touching the drug.

In Yellowstone County, the Sheriff’s Office has received reports of six drug overdoses between May 22 and May 31, including one fatal fentanyl overdose. All six overdoses were associated with opioids, although not all reports specified fentanyl.

In at least one of the recent Yellowstone County overdose cases, multiple doses of Narcan were administered and the person survived.

If anyone in your household uses opioids, you should have Narcan on hand. Narcan is a nasal spray containing naloxone, a medication approved by the Food and Drug

Administration to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. Many overdoses are accidental and can occur even if the user is taking a prescription opioid and isn’t addicted to opioids.

Montana pharmacies are authorized to dispense Narcan without a prescription. Check with your local pharmacy on availability. Narcan is available without a prescription at RiverStone Health Pharmacy, 123 S. 27th St., 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.weekdays.

RiverStone Health Clinic, 123 S. 27th St., can provide Narcan at no cost to our primary care patients for themselves or household members. Call 406.247.3350 for an appointment.

RISE Syringe Services can also dispense Narcan at no charge to family and friends of opioid users. Call RISE at 406.651.6416. People between the ages of 24 and 60 died of fentanyl overdoses in Montana between May 22 and June 1, including one person in Yellowstone County. Other deaths occurred in Custer, Cascade, Gallatin, Lake and Lewis and Clark counties.