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Fentanyl overdoses on the rise in Georgia

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 9:19 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The powerful drug fentanyl is fueling a record-setting number of overdose deaths in Georgia. Opioid-involved overdose deaths have been rapidly increasing in Georgia since 2010, driven largely by increased use and misuse of prescription opioids.

A silent killer: That’s how some people are describing the fentanyl.

LaGrange Police Lt. Mark Cavender told News Leader 9′s Ashlee Williams that overdoses due to Fentanyl have skyrocketed since the pandemic and have gotten even worse in the past two weeks.

“Every other day or every day,” Lt. Cavender said.

...that’s how often Lagrange Police is responding to overdose calls, specifically overdoses caused by fentanyl.

The CDC described fentanyl as a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients.

Now, drug users are dying after taking opioids laced with fentanyl.

“Just this past Friday, we had two people overdose on Fentanyl within 30 minutes of each other from the same house,” Lt. Cavender explained.

Fortunately they lived, but some overdoses have resulted in deaths. Lt. Cavender said LaGrange police carry Narcan, the drug that reverses the effects of opioids. Officers can then administer Narcan, and possibly save a life.

John Burdeshaw is a recovering addict from Phenix City who’s been clean for seven years. He told News Leader 9 in the past two months, two of his friends have died after overdosing.

“Fentanyl has sky rocketed the past couple of years,” Burdeshaw said. “It’s very dangerous. Addiction is in everyone’s family. Everyone is dealing with it.”

Burdeshaw said it’s cheaper than most opioids, costing a fraction of the cost of heroin and meth. A little bit of it goes a long way, but even in small doses, it can be deadly.

He said it’s like playing with fire when you take a drug that isn’t prescribed by a physician. The recovering addict said his faith in God is how he became drug free, saying if he can become clean, anyone can.

“In the past, I have been locked up a dozen times,” Burdeshaw said. “I went to rehab four different times. I overdosed a few times, but I do have seven years clean now. That was through new Horizons where I got my help.”

Burdeshaw is now a recovery coach for an initiative called Connections, a safe environment for drug users and survivors to meet and hang out.

The CDC reports that at least 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, but Narcan can be the difference between life or death.

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