JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a warning about a nationwide increase in “mass-overdose events” specifically related to the drug fentanyl.
The agency defines a mass overdose event as three or more overdoses occurring in the same location at the same time.
A letter from the DEA has been sent to law enforcement offices across the U.S. It specifically tells those offices to contact the local DEA office right away if a mass overdose event happens in their area.
In the past two months, the DEA said, there have been at least seven confirmed mass-overdose events across the U.S. resulting in 58 overdoses and 29 overdose deaths.
“This past year, we were up to 280 people a day dying from overdoses,” said Mike Dubet, DEA assistant special agent in charge.
That amount of people dying from a fentanyl overdose is equivalent to the seating capacity of a large jet airliner.
“It’s a jet airliner falling from the sky every day,” Dubet said.
Dubet said the recent mass-overdose events all have one thing in common – a bad batch of narcotics.
“What we found was that people are out buying what they believe is cocaine or prescription drugs, but the drugs are laced with fentanyl or they are actually fentanyl,” Dubet said.
The latest mass overdose was last month in South Florida. Authorities say six West Point cadets overdosed on what they thought was cocaine but turned out to be cocaine mixed with fentanyl. A good Samaritan who tried to perform mouth-to-mouth recitation on one of the victims got sick after coming in contact with fentanyl.
DEA administrator Anne Milgram, who oversees all DEA operations worldwide, issued a statement that says:
“Fentanyl is killing Americans at an unprecedented rate. Already this year, numerous mass-overdose events have resulted in dozens of overdoses and deaths. Drug traffickers are driving addiction, and increasing their profits, by mixing fentanyl with other illicit drugs. Tragically, many overdose victims have no idea they are ingesting deadly fentanyl until it’s too late.”
“It’s considered a crisis in our country today,” Dubet said. “We’re losing way too many Americans to this stuff.”
Once local offices contact the DEA about a mass overdose event, the DEA will assist with the local investigation by helping to track down the source of the drugs, as well as provide priority access to the DEA lab.