After a series of mass overdose events across Florida, suspected to be caused by fentanyl, federal investigators are sounding the alarm.
In the last two weeks, local authorities in the Tampa Bay area, Gadsden County and Leon County, have responded to suspect mass-overdose events.
The DEA’s Miami Field Division sent out a Public Safety Alert to warn people of the suspected poisoned drug supply.
“These mass-overdose events typically occur when criminal drug networks market and sell their product as a street drug such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin, when it actually contains synthetic opioid, like illicit fentanyl,” said Erin Knight-Grimming with the Miami Field Division.
“It’s extremely scary.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which the DEA calls the deadliest drug on the market.
Just two milligrams of fentanyl can fatal, vs. 60 milligrams of heroin.
“It’s extremely scary,” said Deborah Comella, Executive Director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida.
Comella says fentanyl presents a real danger to the community.
While prescription drug abuse is bad enough, with fake pills containing fentanyl on the black-market the situation is only getting worse.
“First of all, Xanax is bad for a child that it’s not prescribed to. But then you think about that they’re not even getting what they think they’re getting. There’s evidence that fentanyl is widespread in everything,” said Comella.
In Gadsden County, 19 people overdosed in a four-day period from what investigators said were fentanyl laced-drugs.
Nine of them were fatal.
Investigators have reached out to other agencies for help.
“We have specifically asked for assistance in training dealing with deals and investigations of overdoses, and especially those involving fentanyl,” said Col. Bobby Collins with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office.
Fox 4 Investigates pulled the most recent numbers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In the first six months of 2021, fentanyl overdoses killed 252 people in Southwest Florida and 3,210 people statewide.
"Nothing is safe."
The DEA blames the bulk of that fentanyl on Mexico’s two largest drug cartels.
“This is all deliberate, calculated treachery from Sinaloa (Cartel) and CJNG (the Jalisco New Generation Cartel). When they sell things on social media and say it’s Adderall, it isn’t. When they say it’s oxycontin, it isn’t,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram on Fox News Channel last week.
“There is not a single part of those fake pills that are the real narcotic.”
The DEA also says social media is playing a major role in getting the drugs into the hands of kids.
“Fentanyl is a shapeshifter, it can be in any drug. Nothing is safe. Social media is now facilitating, it connects people, it brings them together, it’s now bringing Sinaloa and CJNG, the two biggest, dominant Mexican cartels in the world, it’s now bringing them into your home,” Milgram said.
Comella says raising awareness and talking to your kids is the best way to combat the epidemic.
“There’s the black web and different emojis for different drugs and code words. We don’t know any of them because we’re adults. By the time we know about them, they’re on to something else,” Comella said.
“We need to be aware that on social media, you can get drugs.”
Health experts say a key tool in the fight against the epidemic is Narcan, which can reverse an overdose.
Here is a list of places in Southwest Florida to get the medication for free.
Lee Health Recovery Medicine
12550 New Brittany Blvd. Suite 201, Fort Myers
SalusCare, Inc. – Evans Campus
3763 Evans Avenue, Fort Myers
Community Assisted and Supported Living (CASL)
2229 Unity Ave, Fort Myers
The McGregor Clinic, Inc.
2070 Carrell Rd. Suite B, Fort Myers
A Voice in the Wilderness Empowerment Center
3903 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Suite F, Fort Myers
David Lawrence Center
6075 Bathey Lane, Naples
239-455-8500 ext. 1592
New Season- Naples
2770 Davis Blvd, Naples
Families of Grace
1257 Bluebird Ave, Marco Island
Collier Community Assisted and Supported Living (CASL)
5263 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples
Charlotte Behavioral Health
1700 Education Avenue Bldg A , Punta Gorda