Opioid pilot program finds scary trend: fentanyl-laced cocaine

Doctors say patients in Project Save Lives showing signs of deadly mixture

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville program designed to help people get free of drug addiction has found a dangerous new trend.

Based on data collected from participants' urine samples, doctors have discovered that drug dealers are now lacing cocaine with deadly fentanyl.

Doctors say drugs dealers have been adding fentanyl to prescription pills and heroin to give users a powerful high, which often proves deadly. Now, it appears, those dealers have added cocaine to the deadly mix.

DOCUMENT: Opioid Pilot Program status update for March | RELATED: City of Jacksonville sues 'big pharma' for opioid deaths, costs

Patients with Project Save Lives at St. Vincent's hospital have cocaine and fentanyl in their system more than any other drugs, doctors said. (Scroll down to chart of drugs found in pilot program patients.)

Dr. Raymond Pomm, the creator of the opioid pilot program, said the that dangerous combinations is spreading the threat of a drug overdose to African-American communities. 

“Typically fentanyl has been a Caucasian drug, and typically cocaine is found in the African-American community,” Pomm said. “We don’t really find a lot of African-Americans using opioids.”

At the morgue, News4Jax found more people have already died with cocaine and fentanyl in their urine. In the first week of January, victims with cocaine and fentanyl found in their urine samples included both men and women, ranging in age from 25 to 54.

It's a deadly reminder that drug dealers are shifting from one drug to another and killing their users along the way.

“People are waking up (after) being reversed from a fentanyl overdose saying, 'I don’t use fentanyl. I only use cocaine,'” Pomm said. “So what is happening now is we are going to see a change in demographic and, unfortunately, innocent people who are using cocaine are going to start -- and have been potentially -- overdosing and dying.”

Former cocaine user Richard Preston said doing drugs is a deadly game that no one can win.

Preston used cocaine and other drugs for nearly 30 years before he stopped. He said he hopes users can walk away from drugs before they die.

“The casual user typically will go to a party and they will have a few drinks or cocktails and it lets the inhibitions down,” Preston said. “And they will take that cocaine kind of how I got started. That start might be your finish.”

Pomm said he supports the state trying to fight the opioid epidemic with new laws but is also concerned that there will be new drug users if the new state laws drastically cut the amount of pills a person can get legally. 

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