Dozens are overdosing in Georgia from an unknown drug that is suspected of killing four people within 48 hours and is surfacing in communities throughout the state, officials said Tuesday.
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a warning regarding a suspected street drug that cropped up in the last two days in south and central Georgia. The unidentified pills are already linked to four deaths and dozens of overdoses. Authorities fear the drug is being sold in other parts of the state, and officials said reports of overdoses continued to come in to county hospitals Tuesday, reports The New York Times.
“The substance has not yet been identified, but it is extremely potent and has required massive doses of naloxone (Narcan) to counteract its effects,” said a statement from the DPH. “Testing is being done to identify the pills and the ingredients. Many patients need to be placed on ventilators. Call 911 immediately if you have taken the pills or if you think someone has used the drug.”
The yellow pills are being sold as the opioid-based painkiller Percocet, but the effects are substantially more potent, causing victims to stop breathing. Dr. Christopher Hendry, chief medical officer of Navicent Health in Macon, said at a press conference Tuesday they are working to determine what is causing the wave of overdoses. (RELATED: Deputy AG: ‘Horrifying Surge’ In Drug Deaths ‘Crippling’ Law Enforcement)
“There is a new drug that’s surfaced in our community,” Hendry said, according to TheNYT. “It’s being sold on the street as Percocet, however, when it’s taken, the patients are experiencing significant and severe decreased levels of consciousness and respiratory failure.”
Bibb County Sheriff David Davis is promising to forgo criminal charges for people who come forward with any information that can help police find “who is putting this poison in the community.”
“Our timeline is very tight to be able to get to these individuals and render them aid,” Davis said Tuesday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab conducted a study in May that found more than 450 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 times more powerful than heroin, were sold on the streets in the state.
Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of death for Americans under 50. The New York Times recently culled through data from state health departments and county medical examiners and coroners, predicting there were between 59,000 and 65,000 drug deaths in 2016.
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