Police continue investigations into overdose deaths | SteamboatToday.com

Police continue investigations into overdose deaths

Many of today's most addictive drugs are not being sold by drug dealers on street corners but can be found in almost every home inside the medicine cabinet. Opiates have long been used by physicians to help their patients deal with pain, but one of the worst side affects of opiates is addiction.
John F. Russell

— Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said Thursday that the two men who recently died from drug overdoses had a combination of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and alcohol in their systems.

Those findings were based on preliminary toxicology tests.

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office and the Steamboat Springs Police Department were investigating the deaths of a 21-year-old man and a 24-year-old man. Both were treated at a Front Range hospital. Their names have not been released.

The 21-year-old was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center on Monday, and he died Tuesday.

Ryg said they were still trying to piece together more information about the 24-year-old’s death.

On Wednesday, police believed the man overdosed in Oak Creek. On Thursday, Ryg said the man lived in Steamboat and was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center by friends Nov. 5. He died Sunday.

Investigators have been unable to locate the people who took the man to the hospital.

Steamboat Police Commander Annette Dopplick said the police department was investigating both deaths.

“I don’t have any indication that a crime was committed,” Dopplick said.

Because of the combination of drugs, Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said he was trying to determine if the deaths were connected and if a bad batch of drugs had made its way to the area.

Steamboat Springs physician Brian Harrington said he has heard about local overdose cases that involved drugs described as something else. He said Xanex pills used to treat anxiety were found to contain fentanyl, a powerful opiate that can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

“They weren’t prescription pills,” Harrington said. “They were made to look like it. People didn’t even know they were taking it.”

There were reports of similar pills throughout the country this year. Nine people died in Florida in a three-week period after taking the pills.

Yampa Valley Medical Center officials said it was difficult to confirm if they had treated anyone who had taken the pills.

“Most often, the specific drug combinations are unknown at the time the patient presents to the emergency department,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Kettering said in a statement. “When a routine drug screen is completed, often only the class of drug(s) in the patient’s system can be determined, not the specific drug present.”

She said upon arrival to the emergency room, time is of the essence.

“Both opiates and benzodiazepines can cause respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening in a short amount of time,” Kettering said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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