Upstate coroner’s office sends warning after seeing spike in deadly overdoses

Health

ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA) — Anderson County has seen 53 drug deaths this year, and 11 of those have happened within the last three weeks.

The Anderson County Coroner’s Office said within the last several days, they’ve seen an increase in illicit drug deaths. They also believe there is a deadly combination of fentanyl and a drug that’s traditionally used to tranquilize large animals, such as elephants.

“Well our coroner has become a little concerned because we’ve recently had a spike in fentanyl deaths in our county,” said Don McCown, Senior Investigator for the Anderson County Coroner’s Office. “We’ve had about four within a 24-hour period.”

Fentanyl is a narcotic that is used to treat severe pain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent.

“These kids and these other folks who are taking these pills, they don’t have the tolerance to deal with something like fentanyl,” said Rich Jones, CEO of the non-profit organization Favor Greenville.

McCown said fentanyl can be deadly when abused. Drug abusers have been mixing it with heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. However, there’s another mix that is proving to be more deadly.

“We’ve had a couple of presumptive tests which are still need to be conclusive, that have tested positive for carfentanil. And our coroner is a little more concerned over that because carfentanil is 100 times more potent than just fentanyl,” McCown said. “The problem with carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.”

Carfentanil is used to tranquilize large animals in surgical procedures. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, even 2 milligrams of carfentanil can be lethal to humans.

Carfentanil is a white powdery substance that looks similar to cocaine and heroin. When carfentanil is mixed with fentanyl, the possibility for a fatal overdose increases greatly.

Now drug experts want to educate everyone on the dangers before it’s too late.

“This touches all of us. And the message for people using opioids, you never know what you’re taking,” Jones said.

“Just be aware that you’re taking a chance with your life. Not just your high, but you’re taking a chance at dying and that’s pretty significant. If that’s not a sobering message, I don’t know what is,” McCown added.

The Anderson County Coroner’s Office is working with narcotics departments from both the county and city to figure out how the drugs are getting into the area. They’re also asking for your help in communicating the dangers with others and providing aid to those who suffer from addictions.

Favor Greenville said they have a satellite office in Anderson, ready to assist people with necessary resources. They also have support groups for families who have a loved one struggling with addiction. There are meetings which happen weekend in-person and on Facebook.

Click here for their resources or call their 24-hour helpline at (864) 430-1802.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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