Chicago has reported nearly 1,300 fatal fentanyl overdoses in the last year alone, Fox 32 Chicago reported this week. Now, with the approach of Lollapalooza, the city's Drug Enforcement Agency is on high alert.
"There's going to be people walking around with backpacks at Lollapalooza that are going to be selling pills that are going to be laced with fentanyl," Shane Catone, the division's Deputy Special Agent in Charge, told Fox 32. "There's not a doubt in my mind."
According to the report, Catone's department has seized 80,000 pills containing fentanyl in the city since last October. One thing that makes these "fake" drugs so dangerous, he added, is how hard they are to distinguish from the real thing.
"I've done this job for 20 years," Catone continued. "I can't distinguish between a fake fentanyl pill or a pill containing fentanyl and one that doesn't."
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With fentanyl overdoses on the rise across the United States, the Chicago DEA put out a similar warning last year after the state of Illinois saw a 27% increase in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020, according to WGN TV. No overdoses were officially reported despite the festival's record-breaking 385,000 attendees across four days.
But according to the United States Drug Administration, 42% of pills tested for fentanyl will contain at least two milligrams of the Schedule II controlled substance. This dosage is widely considered to be a lethal threshold.
"Having your own naloxone could save someone else’s life. Or if you carry it around and let your friends and other loved ones know where it is, because you can’t use it on yourself," said Dr. Maria Rahmandar, who often treats patients during Lollapalooza at Lurie Children's Hospital. "If you decide to use something, I would encourage you to not use alone. Using with people who are sober."