‘It’s out of control’ Fentanyl abuse leads to overdoses skyrocketing in Elizabeth City

Posted at 4:12 PM, Jun 28, 2019

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - In less than a month, 30 people have overdosed in Elizabeth City. Six of those overdoses were fatal.

Emergency Medical Service officials said the drug epidemic across the area has reached new levels.

"I believe we’re on track to surpass all [of the overdoses] last year if this keeps up - all within just June," Pasquotank-Camden EMS Chief Jerry Newell said.

Since issuing an overdose alert at the beginning of June, Elizabeth City EMS told News 3 they have seen a new "trend" of people ingesting only fentanyl.

Typically, fentanyl is mixed with heroin, which is already dangerous and deadly, but when taken on its own, it elevates the threat. Newell reports that fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin.

"So, are we looking for such a big high now that you’re going over and above what the heroin can do?" Newell questions.

Since June 5, officials have seen as many as five overdoses in one day. Medics have issued about 117 milligrams of Narcan, which is equivalent to about 60 syringes.

Each syringe costs the department between $60 and $70, and every ambulance is stocked with about five kits. When responding to a case with multiple overdoses, medics have gone through almost the whole supply.

Newell recalled a time recently where his crews responded to a double overdose, "There was a call up north of town in Newland where the ambulance went in, and that’s where the double overdoses started. They went to take care of one person reported in an overdose, so they say, 'We got one that’s not breathing on my floor and there’s one more upstairs.'"

With these disturbing numbers, officials have started a post-overdose response team. Within 24 hours and 72 hours, medics will check on a victim at their home to make sure they haven't started using again.

Newell said they talk about health, wellness and rehabilitation options.

"They’re either receptive to our suggestions or they’re just plain more willing to talk to us to tell us the dilemma that they’re in," he said.

Since it began, they have successfully checked two people into rehab and detox facilities.