Amid an epidemic of overdose deaths caused largely by fentanyl, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is warning state, local and federal law enforcement of a spike in “mass-overdose events.”
“The DEA is seeing a nationwide spike in fentanyl-related mass-overdose events involving three or more overdoses occurring close in time at the same location,” a letter the DEA sent to law enforcement offices across the country Wednesday said.
“In just the past few months, there have been at least 7 confirmed mass overdose across the United States resulting in 58 overdoses and 29 overdose deaths. Many of the victims of these mass overdose events thought they were ingesting cocaine and had no idea they were in fact ingesting fentanyl,” it added.
The cities where recent incidents happened include, Austin, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington, D.C, according to the DEA.
Minnehaha County, South Dakota, Sheriff Mike Milstead said in a DEA press release shared with reporters that cartels are strategically distributing drugs throughout the country and that the incidents aren’t random.
“Fentanyl poisonings are at an all-time high,” Milstead said. “These are not isolated incidents. These are happening in every state and every county in America, leaving behind grieving families. Let us be clear: These poisonings are part of a strategic maneuver by the cartels and it must be stopped. The nation’s Sheriffs appreciate the spotlight that the Drug Enforcement Administration has put on this horrifying spike of fentanyl poisonings and is committed to putting an end to this tragic trajectory.”
The letter stated that law enforcement should contact the DEA “right away” if a mass overdose incident occurs in their area, so it can get resources like special agents, intelligence analysts and chemists to help them.
It also said that they should “assume that all drugs encountered during enforcement activities now contain fentanyl,” given its “extreme toxicity and the increases we are seeing.”
— DEA Yavapai (@DEAYavapai) March 31, 2022
It’s estimated that over 100,000 people died in the U.S. from drugs during a 12-month period ending in Oct. 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 66% of those deaths were related to fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, or other synthetic opioids.
More people died in the country last year from fentanyl than guns and auto-related deaths combined, according to the letter.
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