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Drugs bring death to Gadsden County

Mass overdose in Gadsden County leaves at least 5 dead, sheriff’s office to look through past cases and determine if fentanyl is to blame for other deaths

More than 15 people overdosed on illegal drugs in Gadsden County during this last holiday weekend.

At least five people died, and several were hospitalized after going into cardiac arrest.

Law enforcement is referring to the weekend’s tragedy as a “mass fentanyl poisoning.”

Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young said it’s the first event of this magnitude that he’s seen locally.

According to the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration fentanyl-related mass-overdose events are characterized as three or more overdoses occurring close in time and at the same location.

Sheriff Young said preliminary investigations have determined that fentanyl that was mixed into other drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, is what has contributed to the sharp increase in overdoses.

Young said the first call related to the mass overdose came in just after 9 p.m. on Friday, July 1.

Deputies with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office responded to a residence on Hutley Road in the St. Hebron area of East Gadsden County, where two women were found dead.

On Friday alone, Gadsden Emergency Medical Services responded to more than 10 drug-related calls. 

“Sadly, it has hit home in our rural area and poses a major issue in our communities,” Young said.

The sheriff said he believes a 24-year-old woman who died in Chattahoochee earlier last week may have also overdosed on fentanyl.

Young also said his agency is going back through their records and looking at other overdose cases to see if they could have been caused by the opioid as well.

He assured the general public that law enforcement is working together to not only identify those responsible for the sales and distribution of the drug, but to get rid of this deadly substance as well.

As of Sunday, Young said none of the overdoses have been minors.

Investigations are still active and pending, Lt. Anglie Holmes, a representative for the sheriff’s office, said autopsies will determine for sure if the deaths were caused by fentanyl.

The Drug Enforcement Agency’s website says fentanyl is highly-addictive, and drug traffickers are increasingly mixing it with other illicit drugs – in powder and pill form – to drive addiction and attract repeat buyers. 

The department says drug dealers also sell pills designed to appear nearly identical to legitimate prescriptions, but are actually fake prescription pills containing fentanyl. 

The Florida Attorney General’s Office says users often don’t know fentanyl has been mixed with the drug they just purchased.

The sheriff’s office is working with the Drug Enforcement Agency and other local law enforcement agencies to combat the deadly drug.

Holmes said the Gadsden County Law enforcement community is asking anyone with knowledge of persons distributing illegal street drugs to contact Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS or the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 627-9233.

All Crime Stoppers tips can be made anonymously.

Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office has issued a statement that says rewards will be issued for any tips resulting in arrests of people dealing with any amount of fentanyl.

Erin Hill – Gadsden County News Service