MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Over the past two years drug overdose deaths in Alabama have spiked 31% and the Madison County Coroner says a common culprit in the deaths is the drug fentanyl.
“In the past heroin was king but fentanyl is by far the most sought out drug on our streets,” Madison County Coroner, Tyler Berryhill told News 19.
Law enforcement officials said the opioid epidemic started with prescription pill abuse, then transitioned to the street drug heroin and is now evolving again to the drug fentanyl.
“What we’re seeing is a microcosm of what we are seeing nationwide. We know we are dealing with the same evolution and the same problems,” says Huntsville Police Captain Jerry King.
The North Alabama HIDTA Drug Task Force and the Madison County Coroner said they are seeing a major increase of fentanyl on the streets and drug overdose deaths in Madison County.
“Approximately 70 to 75 percent of all deaths in our county comes back to the illicit use of fentanyl,” says Berryhill.
Berryhill says in June of 2021, there’s been a projected 16 fatal drug overdoses in the county with a spike in the last 14 days. When compared to the average of six to eight overdoses per month, that’s a significant increase.
“What we will see is we will have spikes, it can be associated with bad batches of drugs that hit the streets and we will have a rapid amount of overdoses very quickly over a weekend or a period of days,” says Berryhill.
Captain Jerry King served as the Commander of the North Alabama Drug Task Force before being promoted to command Huntsville’s South Precinct. He says fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and a small amount can kill.
“It’s people that are actually wanting fentanyl now, where before it was a case where drug dealers might be using it to spike the drugs and make the drugs more potent but now it’s evolved to the point where people are actually asking for the fentanyl,” says King.
In a drug overdose, time is of the essence and officials urge people to call 911 immediately for help even if they’ve been involved in illegal activity.
“If they would just call 911 and let that person get help. I understand that they are scared they’ve been involved in illegal activity but at that point and time we aren’t looking to take anybody to jail we are looking to save a life. That’s always going to be more important to us than anything else,” says King.
The Huntsville Police Department says they work overdose deaths similar to homicides and murder investigations so if they can find probable cause of a drug dealer contributing to somebody’s death, they will proceed with prosecution.