MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — The Partnership for a Drug-Free Community said it has been a rough week in Madison County.
“We had literally 6 overdose deaths in less than 48 hours,” said Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free Community, Wendy Reeves. She said those deaths were reported between 3:00 am on Sunday and 2:00 pm on Tuesday afternoon.
Madison County Coroner, Dr. Tyler Berryhill, said since then, two more overdose deaths have been reported. He said Fentanyl is suspected in those deaths, however, they are waiting on the results from a toxicology report.
“Usually for our area, we see a drug-related death occur every 72 hours,” Dr. Berryhill said. “Having a potential eight deaths in just a few days is a substantial increase,” he continued.
He went on to say, that the overdose deaths were likely accidental.
“Nobody ever took these drugs this week with the intention to harm themself or to cause death,” he said. “Nobody out there did that on purpose this week.”
Fentanyl is a dangerous and extremely deadly drug. It is fifty-times stronger than morphine, and even very small levels can be deadly. Fentanyl can be found in pill and powder form. Right now, it is not confirmed if all the people who died from overdoses this week were ingesting the same substance.
However, Berryhill said, “this week, a lot of places we’ve been to we’ve actually seen it in the powdered form quite frequently.”
Berryhill said, in cases where they see widespread death in the community, it’s “because a very powerful or tainted batch of drugs has hit the streets.”
Resident Agent In-Charge of the Huntsville Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) office, Peter Gruden said oftentimes people don’t intentionally ingest fentanyl.
“People believe they actually ingesting OxyContin,” Gruden said. He explained that oftentimes people take counterfeit prescription pills, that have actually been laced or are entirely made with fentanyl.
“When you hear of a rash of fentanyl deaths, that’s usually the reason it’s because they didn’t know what they were taking,” Gruden said.
To help combat further fentanyl-related overdose deaths, the Partnership for a Drug-Free Community, said it will be offering fentanyl test strips to people who want them.
The test strips can detect fentanyl in other drugs.
“In light of this increase in overdoses that we’re seeing this week, we really really want to offer them to people who are active users, who are not interested in fentanyl, but who are fearful they may be getting fentanyl when they get something else,” said Reeves.
The idea isn’t to promote drug use but to help end a deadly cycle in the community.
“This is about helping save lives” Reeves said.
If you are interested in fentanyl test strips, you can call the Partnership for a Drug-Free community at 256-539-7339. Reeves said you can remain anonymous, however, they may ask a few questions.
On hand, Wednesday morning was HEMSI spokesperson Don Webster. He wanted to remind the community that accidental drug overdose deaths can happen to anyone.
“It knows no color, it knows no race, it knows no hour, it knows no male, female, it knows no boundaries.”
He also said they respond to OD calls at all sorts of locations. “It’s not stereotyped, it’s not in a crackhouse, it can be anyplace, anywhere,” he said.