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DEA sends out warning as Fentanyl mass overdoses are on the rise

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 9:49 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Fentanyl mass overdoses are at an all-time high as dealers lace drugs with the highly-addictive opioid. Users have no idea they’re taking the deadly drug, and deaths from it are accelerating out of control.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is sending out an urgent warning.

“We are in a crisis right now. It is hitting our country very hard at an unprecedented rate,” said Towanda Thorne-James, AL DEA Assistant Agent in Charge. “Specific to Alabama -- absolutely -- Fentanyl is all over the entire state.”

According to the DEA, last year in the U.S. more people died from Fentanyl than gun and auto-related deaths combined.

Fentanyl mass overdoses -- meaning three or more occurring around the same time and location -- have been investigated recently in at least 7 U.S. cities resulting in nearly 60 overdoses and 28 deaths. Cities impacted include Wilton Manors, Florida; Austin, Texas; Cortez, Colorado; Commerce City, Colorado; Omaha, Nebraska; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington, D.C. While none of the recent mass overdoses have happened in Alabama -- they say it’s just a matter of time.

“It is very addictive and very deadly. The drug traffickers are putting Fentanyl in everything. An individual may think they are buying cocaine or they’re being sold heroin or methamphetamine... But it’s actually laced with Fentanyl,” said Thorne-James. “We know it’s here and it we are trying to get ahead of it.”

Even the smallest amount can be deadly. As the DEA works to get ahead of the deadly problem -- they’re not only warning the buyer to beware -- but throwing resources to help identify and go after the dealers.

“I do think we are making a lot of headway in actually tracing an overdose drug to its source,” said Thorne-James. “And once we trace it to that source than we have successfully prosecuted those individuals that sold it or that put it on the street or that had some involvement in getting it to that victim. So we’ve been very successful with that.”

The DEA says they’re not only intercepting Fentanyl on the highways but in the mail and say it’s not just in street drugs -- but also being put into fake prescription drugs.