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Tuesday - April 24, 2018 1:30 am

FENTANYL: Drug that killed Prince, turning up more and more in La Crosse

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FILE - In this Feb. 18, 1985 file photo, Prince performs at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Singer Judith Hill says she was on a plane with Prince when it made an emergency landing in Illinois after he lost consciousness less than a week before his death. Hill told The New York Times that she was "very freaked out" when Prince lost consciousness in the middle of a conversation. Prince died of an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl six days later. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing, File) FILE - In this Feb. 18, 1985 file photo, Prince performs at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Singer Judith Hill says she was on a plane with Prince when it made an emergency landing in Illinois after he lost consciousness less than a week before his death. Hill told The New York Times that she was "very freaked out" when Prince lost consciousness in the middle of a conversation. Prince died of an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl six days later. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing, File)

The drug fentanyl is back in the news, as Minnesota investigators say rock singer Prince died from a fentanyl overdose.

Although it's believed that Prince didn't know he was taking fentanyl, many might be taking the powerful drug deliberately.

La Crosse County has reported a sharp increase in fentanyl overdoses in the past year, according to county health educator Al Bliss.

“There was 14 out of the 26 last year that had fentanyl present, which is an opioid,” Bliss said of drug deaths in 2017. “Compared to only four in 2016 that had fentanyl.”

In 2016, there were 21 drug-related deaths and Bliss said it's not all younger people who are dying.

“We think that it’s people in their 20s and early 30s but, in fact, it’s middle-aged folks,” he said. “And, some of these individuals were probably using painkillers or were prescribed some of them.”

Members of the overdose team and the county heroin task force are expected to review the new figures this week.

Brad Williams

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from U-W-La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area.  Brad writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse.  He's been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.  

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