By REBECCA HAZEN
Illegal drug use and overdoses are becoming more frequent in Dade County, as well as in Georgia overall, according to Dade County Sheriff Ray Cross and a report by the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“It seems like we have a daily occurrence of drug related crimes, and we can’t get ahead of it. It just seems like it is everywhere,” Sheriff Cross said.
In 2019, there were nine overdoses in Dade County. In 2020, there were 29 overdoses, and 45 overdoses in 2021. So far, there have been 15 overdoses in 2022.
“The cartels are flooding across the border with drugs. One of the drop–off points is in Atlanta, and from there it goes all over Georgia. We are having dealers out of Chattanooga that are getting drugs into our county as well. Walker, Catoosa, Marion County in Tennessee, and Alabama counties are all having similar problems. I don’t know the answer to it, but we are doing the best we can to combat it,” Cross said.
Cross noted that there are quarterly meetings between Dade County, Jackson County in Alabama, and Marion County, for deputies to come together and discuss how to try and stop the crimes going across state lines.
To handle possible overdoses, the Dade County deputies receive CPR and basic first aid training, as well as trauma training, and annual training on drug developments and awareness. Dade County deputies also receive Narcan training.
According to cdc.gov, “Naloxone (sold under brand name Narcan) is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications. Often given as a nasal spray, naloxone is safe and easy to use.”
The Dade County Sheriff’s Office also has K-9s to help sniff out drugs during traffic stops, and when the deputies have a warrant to search a home.
“I’d say about seven out of 10 vehicles that the deputies stop, they have illegal drugs in the vehicle. That problem gets even worse at night. And it’s not always people living in the county, its people passing through,” Cross said.
“Extensive certification and training are undergone by both the canine and the handler in addition to monthly training and annual recertification. Our canine teams are a valuable resource,” Sergeant Hailey Smith, with the Dade County Sheriff’s Office, said.
According to a recent press release by Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), there have been increased reports of overdoses due to drugs mixed with fentanyl, particularly cocaine, methamphetamine, and counterfeit pills. Overdoses have been reported in several areas of the state over the past month.
“Between early February and mid-March, at least 66 emergency department visits involved the use of cocaine, methamphetamine, crack, heroin, pain killers and cannabis products that were likely laced with fentanyl,” the press release said.
The press release continues, “Fentanyl-related overdose deaths have been increasing in Georgia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, fentanyl-involved overdose deaths increased 106.2 percent compared to the same time period the previous year.”
According to cdc.gov, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S.
“Drugs are often laced and/or cut with fentanyl. Most commonly we see heroin and fentanyl mixtures in addition to ‘pill presses, which is when people believe they are purchasing an opiate pill, yet it has been pressed with fentanyl. Recently, deputies were recovering cocaine and fentanyl mixtures,” Sergeant Smith said.
Symptoms of an opioid overdose include: unconsciousness, or inability to wake up, limp body, falling asleep, extreme drowsiness, slow, shallow, irregular or no breathing, pale, blue, cold and/or clammy skin, choking, snoring, or gurgling sounds, and slow or no heartbeat
If you suspect a drug overdose, call 911 immediately, and stay with the individual until help arrives. Georgia has a medical amnesty law that protects individuals who may be experiencing an overdose and callers seeking medical attention for drug overdoses.
“The users are the victims of the drug dealers. Anyone that knows of anyone else selling drugs, please call us. They can leave an anonymous tip. We are not going to tolerate drug dealers in Dade County,” Cross said.