'One hit and they're dying:' Ocala police issue warning after rash of overdoses

Fentanyl found in cocaine, methamphetamines

By Vanessa Araiza - Reporter

OCALA, Fla. - In just 10 days, six people have died from overdoses in Ocala, prompting police Chief Greg Graham to issue a message to residents, warning them to stay away from all drugs.

The most recent fatal overdoses bring the total number so far this year in Ocala to 25, up from 16 in all of 2017.

"Fentanyl has been found in every type of drug in Marion County this year. No drug is safe as users have no way of knowing whether or not the drug they are taking is cut with fentanyl. Several overdose deaths in Ocala resulted from cocaine and methamphetamines. This epidemic is not exclusive to heroin," police said in a message on the department's Facebook page.

MDMA, cocaine, heroin, opiates and fentanyl were among the drugs confiscated from those who died.

Narcan administration has saved 36 lives so far in Ocala, but police are hoping that anyone suffering from addiction will get help before an overdose.

"We don't really know what's causing the spike right now," Graham said.

Overdose calls aren't limited to certain areas in the city. Graham said every mile within the city limits has seen overdoses recently.

"We're finding people in bathrooms with needles in their arms. We have found people at stop signs," Graham said.

A man who asked to be identified only as Travis N. is a recovering addict himself. His fiancee knew one of the six who died from an overdose over the past week.

"We just had a bunch of friends overdose and it's sad. They're people my age if not younger," he said. "It makes my heart sink. It makes me think how grateful I am that I stopped doing that because that could be me."

Travis, who has been clean for 17 months, was born into addiction and lived his life chasing the next high from age 15 to 30.

The recent deaths are a reminder of what could happen if he uses again.

Body camera video released from the police department shows police respond to a recent overdose call. They found a man in the bathroom of a laundromat and are seen carrying him onto a stretcher.

Graham said drugs they're finding now, everything from cocaine to marijuana, are laced with fentanyl. 

"Now, they're doing one hit and they're dying," Graham said.

According to Ocala police, last year, a total of 16 people died as a result of a drug overdose.

This year already there have been 25 deaths.

The Ocala Police Department offers an amnesty program that anyone can participate in to get treatment without fear of criminal charges just by showing up to the police station and asking for help.

To those who are dealing drugs in Ocala, police warn that they will face murder charges if someone fatally overdoses on drugs they sold.

Travis said he's still wary of law enforcement but credits the department for taking the initiative to battle overdoses in the city. 

"I was a guy on the street that would turn around and run away from the police whether I was guilty or not, and today it's thank you," Travis said. 

The infographic below provides Graham's full message and showcases recent overdose statistics in Ocala. For more information on how to get help for an addiction, click here.

 

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