KANSAS CITY, Kan. — KCK police are investigating seven overdose deaths that all happened within 10 hours of each other.
According to Police Chief Terry Zeigler, the overdoses involved cocaine — possibly laced with fentanyl.
Investigators said the overdoses happened at four separate locations that included three parking lots and one hotel.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine. If abused, it can shut down someone’s respiratory system and cut off oxygen to the brain.
“Unfortunately folks who have used cocaine or have decided to use cocaine don’t know potentially what they’re buying, that it’s a substance laced with or fentanyl,” said Renee Van Meter, a team leader with Johnson County Mental Health. “There’s no quality control in substance use.”
Van Meter said she isn’t surprised to see cocaine possibly laced with fentanyl in the metro, as other parts of the country saw the dangerous drug trend a few years ago.
“Folks whoa re not used to the potency of that opioid, their bodies are just absolutely rejecting that,” Van Meter said. “So that’s really scary. Really, really, absolutely scary.”
Johnson County Mental Health has a 24-Hour Emergency Services line that can be reached at 913-268-0156.
“This is dramatic to us because this is our first encounter,” DeMarco Vaughn with First Call said.
A mix of a stimulant (cocaine) and a depressant (fentanyl) creates an intense high. Vaughn said that’s sometimes intentional.
“It was never one of those things we were supposed to encounter,” he said. “It was always supposed to be something that was hospital given. Now that it’s actually out there and dealers can make it on their own, their biggest thing is to increase their profit margin and keep the customers coming back at a faster pace.”
As KCK police investigate the cocaine possibly laced with fentanyl, people who help drug users recover worry about more overdose deaths in the metro.
“Whether or not it be recreational or stress relief, we have to get to the core,” Vaughn said. “And once we get to the core maybe we can alleviate. but until we get to the core, we’re going to see these numbers increase.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “In 2017, among 70,237 drug overdose deaths, 47,600 (67.8%) involved opioids, with increases across age groups, racial/ethnic groups, county urbanization levels, and in multiple states. From 2013 to 2017, synthetic opioids contributed to increases in drug overdose death rates in several states. From 2016 to 2017, synthetic opioid-involved overdose death rates increased 45.2%.”