TX Capital Sees Sudden Spike in Opioid Overdoses

Oxycodone pills containing fentanyl
Oxycodone pills containing fentanyl | Image by DEA

A sudden spike in the number of “unusually deadly” opioid overdoses in Austin has first responders on high alert.

Between Monday and Wednesday, Austin saw a surge of more than 60 opioid overdoses that left nine people dead, while many more were rescued with Narcan, according to Fox News.

Austin-Travis County EMS and other first responders began receiving overdose calls from the downtown area around 9 a.m. on Monday. From there, the calls began to spread out to other areas of the city, with overdoses occurring in public areas as well as residences and businesses, according to officials, per FOX. More than 200 Narcan rescue kits have been distributed in the city to provide potentially lifesaving intervention to persons overdosing on opioids.

While the types of drugs the patients reported using varied, officials suggested that the spate of recent overdoses is likely connected. They suspect that a “new batch” of drugs, likely from the same source, has arrived in town.

“The trend that we’re seeing in this group of overdoses is that it is unusually deadly,” Austin Chief Deputy Medical Director Dr. Heidi Abraham said during a press conference Monday. “We’ve not experienced overdoses of this volume in several years.”

EMS officials warned that any drugs purchased on the street are likely to be tainted and should be avoided, per Fox News.

The overdose crisis is not confined to the Texas capital: It has also been an ongoing problem in DFW, in particular with fentanyl. This crisis has promoted responses from both the Dallas and Fort Worth Police Departments, as covered by The Dallas Express.

“The Dallas Police Department has seen an increase in cases involving fentanyl,” Jesse Carr, senior public information officer from DPD, told DX previously.

Seventy cases contained the word “fentanyl” as a cause of death, per data from the Dallas County Medical Examiner from the months of January to April in 2023. However, that figure is likely an undercount because of the different ways that fentanyl-related deaths are referred to in the data, according to The Dallas Morning News.

In 2021, the Dallas Police Department created an overdose unit that works to investigate all overdoses. The goal of the unit is to identify the supply sources and determine how the opioids are being distributed.

Sgt. Benjamin Banes told the DX previously that in 2023, the FWPD responded to over 80 fatal fentanyl overdoses within the city limits of Fort Worth. In 2023, the FWPD created a fentanyl response team that aims to find drug dealers around the city.

The Fort Worth Fire Department has seen an increase in overdose calls and the use of Narcan, up from 23% from 2022 to 2023, per CBS News Texas. The department has had to administer Narcan 86 times so far this year.

In an attempt to educate the community on the deadly opioid, the department will have its first Opioid Education Event on May 21 from 6-8 p.m. at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex.

This event will allow attendees to learn about hands-free CPR and how to have a conversation with someone dealing with drug addiction, and they will receive a free Narcan kit.

Across the state, overdose deaths are on the increase. In 2019, the drug overdose mortality rate was 10.8 per 100,000, and as of 2021 was 16.8, according to the most recently published data from the CDC.

Gov. Greg Abbott has also been working to tackle the fentanyl issue, in particular at the border, following the launch of Operation Lone Star in 2021.

“Texas law enforcement has seized over 476 million lethal doses of fentanyl during this border mission,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Abbott also signed laws last year that deemed fatal fentanyl overdoses as poisonings and increased punishments for fentanyl-related crimes.

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