Synthetic opioid fentanyl becomes Virginia's deadliest drug

Published: May. 2, 2017 at 1:16 PM EDT
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A synthetic opioid was the deadliest drug in Virginia last year.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch this week

fentanyl-related fatalities surpassed those related to heroin and prescription painkillers last year.

Of the

, fentanyl contributed to 618 deaths. Heroin contributed to 448, and prescription opioids contributed to 469 deaths.

Fentanyl is described as being 50 -100 times stronger than morphine and has led to overdoses

, Harrisonburg, Shenandoah County, and beyond.

Rosie Hobron is a forensic epidemiologist with the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She says fentanyl is being used as a partial substitute for heroin and many people are overdosing because they don't know what they're buying.

It's cheaper to get fentanyl, which is typically developed in a warehouse. Heroin requires acreage to grow the necessary poppies.

The opioid crisis was

in November.

Learn more about the deadly drug and its effects in our area in an interview with Waynesboro police