Local law enforcement officials are becoming increasingly concerned about drug overdoses this year.
Covington Police Chief Larry Lindsey said his department has worked six overdoses in the last two weeks, two of them fatal.
The Tipton County Sheriff’s Office is also seeing an increases in the number of overdoses, recording 19 since Jan. 1. They have also had two fatal overdoses thus far.
For the purposes of comparison, last year it took until May before the sheriff’s office reached the same number as it has already in 2021.
“We suspect Fentanyl is the culprit, but until we get the toxicology reports back we don’t know for sure,” Lindsey said.
Munford has reportedly had two fatal overdoses in the last month, Brighton has had one fatal and one non-fatal and Atoka has had two non-fatal.
Law enforcement officers in Tipton County carry two doses of Narcan each to help revive unresponsive individuals believed to be suffering from opioid overdoses.
They’ve gone through a lot of Narcan lately, even having to use it on deputies who were exposed to a dangerous narcotic during an overdose event earlier this month.
There are varying theories on what’s causing the uptick – perhaps stimulus money is being used to purchase drugs or perhaps there’s more Fentanyl –but things have to change, the chiefs agree.
Lindsey said after the latest case, he and his command staff went back out to talk to witnesses in the hopes of finding leads.
“We want to know where this is coming from and what this is,” he said.
But people were hesistant to talk about it. He hopes people will become increasingly careful.
In years past there was a big push to combat methamphetamine manufacturing and use, but it’s been making a big comeback.
“Years ago, you had to have your labs to (make meth), then it went to where you could use the two-liter Coke bottles. Well, when they put the big restriction on psuedoephedrine it made it a lot harder,” said TCSO narcotics investigator Tyler Huelsing. “Then it starts piling in where stronger, higher-percentage meth is now coming through. It’s so much harder to buy psuedo, so why do it that way when they can save some money and buy a purer version that’s everywhere?”
Huelsing said four years ago it cost $100 to purchase a gram of meth, now you can get 3.5 grams with a higher potency for roughly $80.
Methamphetamines alone aren’t going to cause the overdose deaths the county is seeing, though.
“The problem is they’re cutting it with Fentanyl from China,” TCSO Chief Deputy Billy Daugherty said. “You’ve got Fentanyl that’s coming in from China and going to the cartels in Mexico and some from India. They’re cutting it with that and that’s where we’re getting the overdoses.”
Vaping, meth and heroin are the most-commonly used drugs in Tipton County right now, Huelsing and Daugherty said.
Fentanyl is easily disguised in different drugs, even those you wouldn’t expect. There’s danger with marijuana, in terms of accidental overdoses attributed to Fentanyl, as well.
“Sometimes the same places that process cocaine, which they’re cutting with Fentanyl, also process marijuana and you’re getting that cross contamination,” Daugherty said.
Lindsey said in those cases even the dealer may not be aware they’re selling something so dangerous.
“It’s so easy, it seems, to get it into the country to where they can take a little bit of Fentanyl and throw it into their batch of meth, weed, coke … whatever it is … and it’s just that little piece that blows you through the roof,” said Huelsing. “Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than heroin and 10,000 times more potent than morphine in the same dose.”
Taking something with a dose of Fentanyl the size of two or three grains of salt can seriously injure or kill someone, he said.
“Your body just can’t take it.”
Those who use drugs are always after getting as high as they can, so including Fentanyl helps with that and keeps users coming back. Not everyone lives through it, though.
And it’s so difficult to detect – there’s no over the counter screening process – that it’s dangerous to play around with.
“It just tugs at my heart,” Lindsey said. I know addiction is very strong. It affects everyone, there’s no difference if you’re wealthy, poor, law enforcement or not. They’re gambling, they’re playing Russian Roulette, spinning the cylinder and hoping the bullet doesn’t land in the chamber.”
Have tips about overdoses? Please call the Covington Police Department at 901-476-1261 or the Tipton County Sheriff’s Office at 901-475-3300.