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Pharmacy robbery linked to drug overdose in western Minnesota

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Authorities say a man suffered an apparent drug overdose in Stevens County last week after using prescription medications stolen from a pharmacy in Starbuck, Minnesota.

In a Facebook post detailing the incident, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says about 1,800 prescription pills, pain patches and oral solutions were stolen from Samuelson's Drug Store on Sept. 16. Now, the BCA is reaching out to the public for any information about either the robbery or the sale of the potent prescription painkillers.

The Pioneer Press reports one overdose has since been connected to the Starbuck robbery. A man was admitted to Stevens County Hospital two days later with signs of an overdose stemming from fentanyl skin patches – a drug the National Institute on Drug Abuse says can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Police soon identified the patches were part of the medication stolen from the pharmacy, the paper says.

In addition, WCCO reports the Stevens County Sheriff's office arrested a man on Monday for selling prescription pills authorities believe also came from the pharmacy robbery.

The dangers of fentanyl

According to the NIDA, fentanyl is an opiate similar to heroin or morphine. It's prescribed by doctors to treat pain and can be administered intravenously, orally or through an on-the-skin (also called "transdermal") patch, like the nicotine ones used to help people quit smoking.

The Drug Enforcement Administration lists fentanyl as a Schedule II controlled substance along with cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone. Use is becoming increasingly more common and is often combined with other drugs like heroin and cocaine to enhance their effects, CBS News reports.

Health advocates have been warning of fentanyl's dangers for years. In 2011, one expert told CBC the drug is cheaper and stronger than heroin, which can make it even easier for an inexperienced user to overdose.

Last weekend a man in Grand Rapids was charged with third-degree murder after authorities say he gave his wife a lethal dose of fentanyl. KSTP reports 49-year-old Terry Wayne Richards is accused of buying fentanyl patches for $150, then extracting the drug from the patches before injecting it into both himself and his wife.

Police say he later found his wife unconscious and tried to revive her before calling 911, the station says.

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