WOODBINE, Ga. – Authorities issued a warning Friday morning after four unexplained deaths in Camden County sparked an investigation into possibly tainted drugs.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said it is partnering with the St. Marys Police Department, the Kingsland Police Department, the Camden County Sheriff’s Office and the Naval Criminal Investigative Services to investigate the four deaths.
It's unclear if they're connected, and autopsies are pending. GBI said the preliminary investigation has revealed that drug usage might have played a role in the deaths, though this has not been confirmed by forensic tests.
At least one person died Thursday and another was hospitalized after they consumed a powdery substance believed to be cocaine, according to the District Attorney's Office. Investigators are looking into the possibility that the substance believed to be cocaine contains a more toxic or lethal drug, and that the substance may have been connected to the other deaths.
Authorities are also pursuing alleged suppliers of the substance for questioning.
GBI said Alonzo Davis, 39, was arrested on outstanding warrants Thursday and charges are pending for possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Toxicology results are pending at the GBI crime lab in Savannah. There is evidence that the potentially lethal substance was purchased by more people in Camden
County, the district attorney said.
"Consumers of illegally purchased substances of this nature should be aware of the extreme danger," DA Jackie Johnson said in a release.
Dr. Scott Miles, the medical director of Coastal Community Behavioral Health in St. Marys, said he is concerned and is afraid this will happen again.
"It's upsetting, of course, but it's not surprising at all. It leaves us wondering: Have any of our patients been affected by this?" Miles said.
Miles has followed this issue closely and says he has seen patients who have relapsed by using cocaine, and it was determined later that the cocaine was mixed with something else.
"We try to tell them, 'You're buying from the street. These are not pharmacists. These are not trained people. You don't know what you're getting,'" Miles said.
Miles said that, nationally, there have been cases of cocaine being mixed with drugs, including fentanyl
and sufentanil. Both are thousands of times more potent than morphine. Georgia investigators are still working to determine what the substance in Camden County might have been mixed with.
The GBI investigation is ongoing, but with suppliers still on the street, Miles' concern is that there will be more deaths.
"We're here to save lives and help people build their lives back and get into recovery. Whether it's a patient of ours or not, these things sadden us greatly, for sure," Miles said.
Anyone with information concerning the investigation is asked to contact the Camden County Sheriff’s Office Tip line at 912-510-5163.