Wednesday, February 28, 2018 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews
A juvenile who was found unresponsive at around 7 a.m. in the 200 block of South 12th Ave. in Maywood on Nov. 21 died from a fentanyl overdose, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Deputy Chief Elijah Willis said at the time that relatives of Alejandro Zagal, 14, had tried waking him up, but he was not responding. Emergency medical responders were then called to the home, Willis said. According to the medical examiner’s office, the boy was pronounced dead at 7:36 a.m.
An official with District 89 confirmed at the time that the teen, a freshman in high school, graduated from Irving Middle School.
When Zagal died, investigators did not rule on his cause of death, which was finally released on Feb. 27 by the medical examiner’s office, which determined that the teenager died of cyclopropyl fentanyl toxicity.
Maywood police said that no charges related to Zagal’s death, which they’re still investigating, have been filed.
Fentanyl, an opioid that is often used as pain medication and as an anesthetic, is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine and heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As a pharmaceutical, fentanyl is usually sold in the form of a patch or lozenge, but recently the drug has “been increasingly manufactured and sold illicitly. Fentanyl is a common adulterant in heroin – with or without the user’s knowledge,” according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
A report released last October by the Chicago health department stated that fentanyl’s prevalence in Cook County has been increasing over the years and has been a driving factor in the increase of opioid-related overdose deaths.
In 2016, nearly 340 people died from opioid-related overdose in suburban Cook County, according to data compiled by the medical examiner’s office.
Countywide, the report states, “the number of opioid-related overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased from 71 deaths in 2015 to 420 deaths in 2016.”
“To better understand this increase, it is important to note that standards for routine fentanyl monitoring were modified in 2015,” the report continues. “Toxicology screening for fentanyl was implemented universally for overdose deaths at the Cook County Medical Examiner in June 2015.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chicago Field Division reported dramatic increases in fentanyl seizures in Illinois from 392 fentanyl submissions in 2015 to 1,332 submissions in 2016.
“Similarly, the Illinois State Police Lab also began routinely testing samples for fentanyl in 2015. Considering these systemic changes, it is possible that the increase in the presence and impact of fentanyl may have been underreported prior to 2016.”
The number of opioid overdoses in Cook County has prompted government and law enforcement officials to implement a series of lifesaving measures to counter what some health experts have started calling an epidemic.
Loyola Medicine and the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) recently partnered to administer a $311,000 federal grant program, which would equip roughly 1,900 officers in 30 police departments in Cook County, as well as the Cook County Sheriff’s Department and Cook County Forest Preserve Police, with Narcan nasal spray — designed to quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
When reached by phone on Feb. 28, an official with District 89 said that they are still processing the news of Zagal’s cause of death and may provide a comment at a later date. More as this story develops. VFP
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