Fentanyl overdose deaths on the rise in Chatham County

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 3:44 PM EST
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Fentanyl overdose deaths were up 20 percent last year in Chatham County, according to the Counter Narcotics Team director who told commissioners he doesn’t expect that number to get any better this year.

During Friday’s Chatham County Commission meeting, CNT Director Michael Sarhatt said his agents have trained nearly 400 officers to use lifesaving medication, like Narcan. But Chatham County is already seeing overdose deaths this year with 10 since Jan. 1.

In 2022, Chatham County had 56 deaths.

“I don’t anticipate that number going down. We can only hope and pray that we’re holding our own at the end of this year,” Sarhatt said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is an opioid 50 times stronger than heroine. Sarhartt says his agents are working to investigate the overdose deaths, and warns that a large number of illegally-bought pills are laced with the drug.

“80% of the pills on the street that you don’t go to a pharmacist, and you go straight to them. 80% of those are laced with fentanyl,” Sarhatt said.

And now warnings over a drug called Kratom. Listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a drug of concern, Kratom has been banned in six states.

Local law enforcement leaders now asking for fewer people to be able to get ahold of this drug that is commonly used as non-prescription option for anxiety relief and opioid withdrawal.

“This stuff, the Kratom, that will get laced. I guarantee it’s going to get laced,” Sarhatt said.

County commissioners approved a resolution at the meeting to further research Kratom’s effects.

“If we don’t do something, we’re not doing our part. I’m very concerned about what is out there for our youth to consume,” District 1 Commissioner Helen Stone said.

Commissioners also discussed a bill in Georgia’s General Assembly that would ban Kratom in Georgia.

Closer to home, Sarhartt said he hopes to soon roll out opioid prevention trailers to spread public awareness about preventing these overdose deaths.