Officials: 21 Overdose Deaths in Middle Tenn. Now Potentially Linked to Fentanyl-Laced Drugs
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - A warning tonight from law enforcement and health officials after 21 people around Middle Tennessee have died of fatal overdoses from what could be a bad batch of drugs laced with fentanyl.
The state medical examiner won't get the precise toxicology results back on these cases for another eight to 12 weeks, but officials are still urging caution.
After 10 people died in five days in Nashville form possible overdoses, Metro police put out a warning on social media saying that a brown or white powder was observed at half of those death scenes. Police say they are already contemplating if fentanyl mixed with the narcotics is to blame.
Metro Health Dept. spokesman Brian Todd said doing drugs in this region is like rollingthe dice.
The Metro Health Dept. has also been in contact with the Office of the State Chief Medical Examiner, which confirmed that there are pending toxicology reports for 21 people who all may have died of overdoses in the same five-day span.
And once again, investigators fear people are overdosing on a bad shipment of drugs laced with fentanyl.
"Five of those 10, from what we have heard from the ME's office, may have involved some sort of powdery substance, so even though toxicology results might not be back for weeks, we are dealing with something that is much more than what we would normally see in a day or five days," Todd told News 2's Andy Cordan.
Todd believes there a bad batch of heroin-laced fentanyl out there, and it is affecting the whole region.
"You know, until the toxicology results come back, you won't know that," Todd explained. "But when you see a spike like this, that's a question you have to as: 'Is this a bad batch? Is something being used that is much stronger than what people have seen in the past?'"
According to Metro Health, there were 344 overdose deaths in Nashville last year. That's nearly one a day.
While 10 deaths in five days might not sound outrageous, it's a cause for concern.
How bad is the fentanyl problem around Middle Tennessee?
Metro Narcotics Seargent Mike Hotz with the Hermitage Precinct told News 2 he purchased his own Narcan for his private vehicle.
"When I was a detective years ago, it was rare to come across heroin in any form, and now the amount of fentanyl seizures are a weekly if not a daily occurrence," Hotz said.
Sgt. Hotz said it's probably that a bad dope shipment laced with fentanyl brought into the Nashville area is affecting drug users all over the region.
And to the narcotics users out there gambling with their lives, the officer has this advice:
"Be safe. The police understand addiction is a very serious issue. Do not be afraid to call 911. We encourage everyone to be safe, but essentially, with heroin addiction, there is no way to know what you are buying from these dealers," Hotz said. "People don't intentionally go out to buy fentanyl. They go out to buy heroin and opiates."
Drug agents we spoke to are working hard to find the source of the contaminated heroin, and when they find that dealer, charges are quite possible.