SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Overdose deaths are continuing to rise and health officials said they’re being driven by fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that the Centers for Disease Control said is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. 

The Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office said they have already surpassed last year’s total for fentanyl deaths. With 2 ½ months still left in this year, fentanyl deaths are also now outpacing the number of traffic deaths in the county.

The Forrester Center for Behavioral Health in Spartanburg has been serving on the front lines in the battle against drugs for decades. They said fentanyl and how it’s disguised now makes their work even more crucial, especially for those like Audrey Colin, who is recovering from addiction.

“Unfortunately now, the first time really can kill you,” said Audrey Colin, Forrester Center for Behavioral Health. “Because you may think you’re getting an Adderall, you may think you’re getting a Xanax or something, but it could be pressed fentanyl.”

Notorious for hiding undercover, fentanyl has significantly contributed to the reason the Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office said they’ve seen a dramatic increase in drug overdose deaths.

“They’re dying on me,” said Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger. “And then I have to go to their family and tell them it’s just a tragic mistake, they saw nothing coming. There were no signs of addiction or anything else, they just made one bad mistake and that’s it. There’s no rehab, no treatment, there’s nothing they can do, they’ve just…left here.”

Doctors said it takes only two micrograms of fentanyl to kill the average person.

Phil Moschella, an emergency medicine physician, said people need to start breaking down what that really means.

“If you take a look at a standard paper clip per se, right, that’s one gram,” said Dr. Phillip Moschella with Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital. “If you were going to cut that paper clip up into a million pieces, that’s a microgram. It takes only a couple of micrograms to possibly make somebody not breathe.”

The Forrester Center’s chief executive officer, Sue O’Brien, said when people understand how dangerous fentanyl is and try to just avoid that drug, it doesn’t solve anything.

“We are even seeing people here who are really surprised to find out that they bought marijuana and fentanyl has been sprinkled in their marijuana and they’ve ended up in an overdose,” said O’Brien.

The Forrester Center said two things that can save a life are Narcan, the only reversal emergency treatment for opioid overdose, and supportive people alongside you.

“To me, it’s so powerful to be able to tell somebody that I know what that pain feels like, I know what I put my family through, and you know everybody suffers but that recovery is so possible,” said Colin.

The coroner said his labs used to see a pill with a color, a stamp and a shape on it, and it was assumed it was a prescription pill. Now, without any visual difference between fentanyl pills and pills from a pharmacy, he said his labs must test every single one.

If you need help with substance abuse, there are crisis hotlines and several recovery programs here in the Upstate, some of which can provide help from your own home.