Episode 65

Published on:

17th Jan 2023

Fentanyl: Facts, Fiction & Future with Mary Simon, Ashely Claussen, and Pete Rettler

At this point, unfortunately, nearly everyone has been affected by an opioid overdose—whether that's from a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, friend of a friend—it has worked its way into all of our lives. One of the major reasons for the recent spikes in opioid overdose deaths is the introduction of fentanyl, which is an even more powerful drug.

This week, Mary Simon from Elevate, Inc., Ashley Claussen from the Washington/Ozaukee Health Department, and Pete Rettler from Moraine Park Technical College join me to talk about fentanyl, what to look out for, and how to help those afflicted with substance use disorder.

We also discuss Moraine Park's upcoming lecture series called, "Fentanyl: Facts, Fiction and Future" which is coming to MPTC each Thursday through the month of February, 2023. The events are free and you're encouraged to attend. The sign-up link is below.


Fuzz Martin 0:00

Hello Washington County! Hope your January is going swimmingly. My name is Fuzz Martin and this is Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz—a show about the positive things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. And you're probably saying "Hey Fuzz. The title of your episode today is Fentanyl: Facts, Fiction and Future, and fentanyl doesn't sound very positive to me." And I agree with you. This episode is focused on an upcoming Lecture Series at Moraine Park Technical College, about fentanyl and learning about things, especially things that surround sensitive subjects is always a positive in my book, and it's my show, so I get to make the call.

Fuzz Martin 0:54

Today I'm joined by three guests. Mary Simon is the executive director at Elevate Inc. Elevate is an organization that guides and empowers individuals, families and communities to effectively address substance use and mental health challenges. They are a resource for residents here in Washington County, as well as in Waukesha, Sheboygan and Dodge. Ashley Claussen is a public health strategist with the Washington Ozaukee health department, and Pete Rettler. You've heard on the show before he's the dean of the West Bend campus for Moraine Park Technical College, he may have also surpassed Jay Shambeau as the person who's been on the show the most over the first two seasons. With that, here are 15 minutes on the upcoming Moraine Park Technical College lecture series, Fentanyl: Facts, Fiction and Future with Mary Simon, Ashley Claussen and Pete Rettler. On Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.

Fuzz Martin 1:59

Ashley, Mary and Pete, thank you for joining me today. So I I'm sure pretty much everybody listening has heard the term fentanyl. You hear that word all the time these days because it's so prevalent, but could one of you please explain exactly what that drug is?

Ashley Claussen 2:15

Yeah, so fentanyl is an opioid. And so opioids are used to suppress pain. And so there's two versions of it really, obviously, they use it in hospital settings, things like that, that can be prescribed out to people. But then there's also that illegal version of fentanyl as well. And so it acts similar to what an opioid does. So it enters your system, it sits on those receptors in your brains that hold the opioids. And it really affects those autonomic processes. So things like your temperature, your heart rate, breathing, all of that. And so it's actually 50 times more potent than morphine. So kind of for comparison there in regards to pain management, and we're seeing it pop up more, because it is a lot cheaper for people to make it and so somebody could sell a bag of heroin for a lot more. And it's cheaper to make because it's dosed with some fentanyl in it, but people don't know. So that's kind of why we're seeing fentanyl rise is just because it is so much cheaper to make. There are people out there who do like that fentanyl high just because of what it does. But we are seeing the majority of it with kind of being laced into things, and it has very similar effects to opioids.

Fuzz Martin 3:32

So the reason it's so powerful is because it's just a kind of a concentrated version of that opioid right. Yep. You talked about how it affects people when they take it. What does it specifically do? I know it sits on those receptors, but how does that affect people in a way that is lending to some people dying from it, or a lot of people dying from?

Ashley Claussen 3:51

Yeah, so because it's so potent, the body's not able to handle it in the way that other opioids would. So when opioids enter your system, they sit on those receptors and an overdose happens when there's too many opioids on those receptors. And those receptors can't work. But they're at a much smaller dose. So when fentanyl enters the system, it's at such a high caliber compared to what other opioids are that people are going into that overdose a lot quicker. And those effects are taken on a lot faster. And so it results in an overdose much sooner than a normal opioid overdose. Would we hear

Fuzz Martin 4:24

a lot of rumors and I don't know what's true and what's not. So is it is it not just being laced in with other opioids is being laced in with other drugs as well that people aren't expecting?

Ashley Claussen 4:35

Yes, it's being laced in pretty much everything that it can be. We're seeing kids who are smoking marijuana, it's being laced in their pills, so someone may be buying Adderall or they think they're buying Adderall and it's laced with fentanyl. So yeah, we're seeing it in a whole variety of different forms.

Fuzz Martin 4:51

There have been a lot of overdoses in the area, of course, and we're hearing a lot about that. It's tragic, but fentanyl is a big part of that, isn't it? What percentage of the overdoses that we're seeing in the area are fentanyl related?

Ashley Claussen 5:05

Yeah, so for Washington County, around 80% of those overdoses are related to fentanyl.

Fuzz Martin 5:10

Wow. Okay. That's a word that comes up and hopefully, people aren't affected by it. But, you know, somebody, everybody here knows somebody everybody listening knows somebody that has been affected by it, right? Yes. It's that prevalent in the area. How can you help somebody that has formed an addiction to fentanyl or to opioids?

Ashley Claussen 5:30

Yeah. So I mean, there's a whole variety of ways you can help someone being that support system I think is absolutely crucial for people. But then also there are a lot of harm reduction strategies. So I'm sure a lot of people have heard of Narcan. That's definitely one way you can help somebody. Fentanyl test strips, which actually were just decriminalized in the state of Wisconsin as of April, Governor Evers signed that order. So that's a way to be able to test if your supply has fentanyl in it. It doesn't tell you the amount of fentanyl but it'll just tell you whether it's there or not. And then you can choose kind of what you do from there. I know elevate hands out Narcan as well as the health department. And so essentially, what Narcan is, is it's just a medication used to reverse an opioid overdose. And so it comes in a nasal spray. There's other ways it can be administered as well, but elevate and the health department handout, the nasal spray, pretty easy to administer, and it's something that you can be trained on and carry with you forever. I don't know, Mary, if you have more to talk about kind of Narcan and ways to help.

Mary Simon 6:34

Yeah, I think one of the other things that I would emphasize is the effect on families when you see someone with a substance use disorder and, and their families are really hurting and scared and worried. One of the things that elevate has is a family support group. For people who have a loved one who has any kind of a substance use disorder. It's free. We have on Wednesdays, one during the day at Holy Angels church here in West Bend, and one in Jackson on Wednesday evenings. And it's an open ended group, people can come as many times as they want to, they could take a break, come back and visit us again. So I think it's really important that those family members also get some support.

Fuzz Martin 7:10

Certainly, where can people find more information about those support groups? They can

Mary Simon 7:13

visit our website, which is www dot elevate u y o u.org?

Fuzz Martin 7:19

Okay, elevate y o u.org. Sounds good. And then I guess one question is, how can people tell if somebody may have an opioid addiction? What's uh, what what are some signs to look out for?

Mary Simon 7:32

So substance use disorder has, excuse me a lot of different symptoms. It's basically the easiest way to describe it is when someone or a key symptom is if they are losing control over their use. So if they are using more than what is prescribed for them, if they are experiencing problems because of their use, they may be missing work or school, they may be having problems with their family, those kinds of things are the outside symptoms that people see clearly when someone is using an opioid, you may see them become very lethargic, and what we call knotting out. And so those are some of the physical signs of an opioid use.

Fuzz Martin 8:12

Sure. Part of the problem with fentanyl isn't the regular users, though, right? There's also those who have overdosed their first time using this, is that correct? Yes, that is. So maybe if they thought they were purchasing Adderall or something else than that it's laced with fentanyl and perhaps a lethal dose. And that's what's causing a lot of these issues. Right.

Ashley Claussen 8:33

Yeah. And I would say that we're actually seeing more of a rise of that in itself versus just the regular users who are, it's being laced in there. It's more of the college student who thinks they're buying Adderall or marijuana, and it's laced with fentanyl. And now, they're overdosing.

Fuzz Martin 8:49

So it might not be somebody that is showing signs of the substance use disorder on a regular basis. It may be somebody who's experimenting, and this is coming. So it is something too, that you might not be able to tell is going to happen. Right. Going back to the Narcan discussion. I've heard people talking about regular Joes carrying Narcan. Narcan on them, is that becoming more of a norm and more of something that people in your positions are looking for people to do?

Mary Simon 9:19

We certainly encourage anyone and everyone to consider carry Narcan you never know when you might see or find someone who's experiencing an overdose. I know one of my staff people was at Walmart parking lot one day and came across someone in their car that appeared to be overdosing. And she was carrying it in her vehicle and was able to administer Narcan before the EMTs got there. So I we encourage anyone and everyone to consider it. There is no legal risk for administering it. There's no danger in administering it to someone who's not having an overdose. Sure. People don't have to worry about that. And there's no legal liability. risk that's associated with it. So, in our view, I think the more people that know about it, the more people that are willing to take action more lives we can save.

Fuzz Martin:

If you suspect that somebody is experiencing an overdose, what are the steps that you should take? I assume calling 911 is probably step one, right?

Ashley Claussen:

Yes, we always recommend calling 911. Obviously, if you were with the person or not with the person, if you you have no idea what's going on, call 911. But then the first thing is to try and get them off if they're unconscious. So something that they call shaken wake, trying to wake them up, the best way to be able to tell if someone's going to be able to awake is you put your hand kind of in a fist, and you use your knuckles, and you rub pretty firmly on their sternum or their lip. If someone's poking you in your arm, your leg, your body probably won't respond, because you can survive without an arm or leg. But if someone's touching you in this area, and your body's able to respond to it, it will, okay, so that's kind of the first step, see if you can get them up after calling 911. And then, if you haven't called 911, and they're still not getting up, then again, at that point, for sure, call 911. And then you can go ahead and administer Narcan, if you'd like. Or if you have it on you sure, obviously, if you're talking to 911, they can walk you through CPR, chest compressions, rescue, breathing, all of that, when you go ahead and administer Narcan, they're gonna want to be on their back, okay. And like I said, it's fairly easy. If you have the nasal spray, you stick it up their nose, and you press a little plunger at the bottom and it's administered. And then you wait two to three minutes between doses and then you can go ahead and administer more if you need to. If you don't see those symptoms starting to kind of dissolve and their breathing coming back and their temperature and all of that

Fuzz Martin:

what signs I've been I think a lot of us have seen TV and seeing things but real world what's what are the signs that we'd see if and be able to tell that somebody might be suffering from an overdose?

Ashley Claussen:

That's tricky, because a lot of the signs and symptoms are similar to really any medical condition for the most part. So it's going to be you know, low pulse, not breathing, low temperature, their lips and fingertips may turn blue, their skin will be pale and clammy. And so a lot of times when I'm doing trainings, people are like, Well, how do I that doesn't differentiate from other medical issues. So how do I know that it's for sure, opioid related like Mary mentioned Narcan can't hurt anybody. Okay, so better safe than sorry. They're seeing those symptoms, and you still don't know exactly what's going on, because you were not there. administer Narcan. It won't hurt them. If they're not overdosing on an opioid.

Mary Simon:

You may also see some paraphernalia that you wouldn't necessarily see with another medical condition. So looking around at the scene and seeing if there may be signs of needles or some other kinds of forms that the Edit was administered,

Fuzz Martin:

okay, pill bottles, some of those kind of things. Moraine Park Technical College in West Bend hosts lecture series on a number of different topics that affect our community. Guys do this on a regular basis. And there's an upcoming series called hopefully I'll get the F's right here, fentanyl facts, fiction and future. Is that correct?

Pete Rettler:

I think he got it right. Fuzz. Hey, outstanding. Thank

Fuzz Martin:

you, Pete. So when is that lecture series taking place?

Pete Rettler:

So we've been doing a lecture series the last few years, it's always we always pick February because what's there to do, you know, in February, so Thursday nights in February from six to 730, so four nights, all through February, every Thursday night. And that'll be at your West Bend that says the West Bend campus in may not have taught auditorium.

Fuzz Martin:

So you've got the four sessions, what are the topics for each of the sessions that you have coming up?

Pete Rettler:

Mary, I'm gonna let you handle that one. No. Okay.

Mary Simon:

So the first week, we're going to really kind of focus on the facts, and what is fentanyl and cover some of those same things that we covered with your audience today. So that's kind of first week we're going to talk about, we're gonna have a pharmacist present, and we're going to have law enforcement present and kind of explaining what they're seeing on the streets. And then how is it also being used in the medical setting? The second week is really kind of focusing in on overdoses, helping people understand why overdoses occur and how they occur. And then the third week is going to be focused more on fentanyl use with substance use disorders, and helping people understand what is a substance use disorder? How do we treat a person with opioid use disorder, those kinds of things, and then last week is really going to be focused on resources and how is the community coming together to try to address these issues? Our goal is really also to leave our participants with some hope. So each week we're going to have a speaker that's related to the topic of the night, but ending it on a positive thing of maybe they were impacted by it, but then what they do as a result

Fuzz Martin:

of that, right. How long will each of the the series shows be? So each

Pete Rettler:

of the nights it's five or excuse me, six to 730 K our partners Moraine Park is partnering with Aurora, freighter and elevate We'll also going to have a hidden in plain sight classroom, which is a room that basically, somebody can walk through and understand what signs that you might see in a typical bedroom of somebody that might be using or getting involved in things they shouldn't be getting involved with. So that'll be open before the event each night. Is there a cost to the event? The cost is free to the general public. If you suspect

Fuzz Martin:

a loved one, or if you yourself are suffering from a substance use disorder. Where can you look to for help and resources?

Mary Simon:

So I would encourage people to reach out to elevate we're a private nonprofit agency, and our mission is to help individuals with substance use disorders. They can find more information about our programs and services at WWW dot elevate you.org Or they can always call us at 262-677-2216. Very good.

Fuzz Martin:

Well, Mary Ashley, Pete, thank you for coming in looking forward to the fentanyl facts fiction and future event coming up at Moraine Park each Thursday from 6 to 7;30 in the month of February. Thanks so much and thanks for all you do. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks again to Mary Simon the executive director at Elevate, Ashley Claussen, public health strategist at Washington/Ozaukee Health Department, and Pete Rettler of Moraine Park Technical College. Again the Fentanyl: Facts, Fiction & Future lecture series takes place each Thursday in the month of February 2023. I've linked to the Eventbrite signup in the show description of this episode, and on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz you can also find it on elevates Facebook page, and I'm sure Moraine Park Technical College will have it posted soon as well. If you have an idea for Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz, please send it to me, go to the website fuzz.cc/guest. And that will take you to the form on the website again fuzz.cc/guest and you can also email me if you'd like fifteenwithfuzz@gmail.com that is fifteen spelled out with fuzz @ gmail.com. New episodes on Tuesdays and we'll talk to you again real soon right here on 15 minutes with fuzz

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Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz
Showcasing the positive things happening in Washington County, Wisconsin.
Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz is sheds light on all the great things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. The host, Fuzz Martin, is a local business owner (EPIC Creative) and a former radio personality (92.5 WBWI - now Buzz Country). New episodes launch on Tuesday mornings. https://fifteenwithfuzz.com

Whether you're in West Bend, Kewaskum, Slinger, Hartford, Germantown, Richfield, Jackson, or anywhere else in the area, 15 Minutes with Fuzz serves the community with fun and positive people, places, events, and attractions.

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Fuzz Martin

Fuzz Martin is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at EPIC Creative in West Bend, Wis.