BOSTON (AP) — Boston public health officials have alerted health care providers in the city about a “concerning” increase in the number of opioid-related overdoses among people who believed they were using cocaine.

The Boston Public Health Commission announced Thursday that city Emergency Medical Services responded to 11 suspected cases in one 24-hour period earlier this week.

“Fentanyl is a highly dangerous substance that even in small amounts can lead to a fatal overdose, so we urge all residents, health care providers, recovery workers, and outreach workers to remain vigilant for signs of opioid overdose, including among individuals who use cocaine,” city Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bisola Ojikutu said in a statement.

Fentanyl is a potent opioid 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, the health commission said. It suppresses breathing, and at high doses can cause a fatal loss of oxygen. People who primarily use stimulants like cocaine may not have an opioid tolerance, making them more susceptible to fentanyl overdoses.

In 2021, the state found 12% of cocaine samples tested in Boston flagged positive for fentanyl.

Cocaine and other street drugs laced with fentanyl is a nationwide problem, according to a 2020 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New York State Department of Health in December warned about the prevalence of fentanyl in cocaine and other illicit drugs.

Last March, five U.S. Military Academy cadets overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine while on spring break in Florida.

And last February, five people found dead in an apartment in suburban Denver overdosed on fentanyl while taking what they believed to be cocaine, officials said.

The Associated Press

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