Robeson County battling high number of overdose deaths

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FILE - Generic police lights. (Photo credit: SBG)

ROBESON COUNTY, NC (WPDE) — Robeson County has had nearly 30 overdose deaths this year, according to Robeson County Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Johnson.

“It’s extremely concerning. We are to have that many people die in that short time. It’s alarming. I don’t know why the dramatic increase in our county. I don’t know if it’s statewide or nationwide. From what I’m seeing. It’s a lot of heroin. But the heroin that these people also coming in with Fentanyl. And not just necessarily plain Fentanyl. It’s as if the heroin is getting cut or laced with other substances,” said Johnson.

Johnson said deputies have saved some people with Narcan, which reverses the effects of heroin and prescription pills, only for people to go back and do drugs all in the same day.

“They get Narcan. Then revive 12 hours earlier. And 12 hours later decide to do it again. This time they are successful in ending their life. Not that they are trying to end their life. But, they terminated it by using too much. Or compounded it with the laced versions," said Johnson.

Johnson said it's a sad situation. He added earlier this year, a 16-year-old girl died from a drug overdose.

He added something has got to be done to stop the problem.

“I see reports where our law-enforcement talking about the county and city are doing a great job. But finding out who these dealers are and they are arresting people. But then they are released back to the streets with little or no bond," said Johnson.

Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins posted the following statement via social media on May 8th about the county's drug overdose problems:

"Robeson County has experienced an increase in overdoses and related deaths over the last few weeks. Heroin and Fentanyl are contributing factors. The number of deaths thus far this year has already surpassed the total for all of last year.

Our office has determined that some drug dealers in our area are selling Fentanyl to unsuspecting customers thinking its Cocaine. Marijuana has also been found to contain traces of Fentanyl. The issue here is that Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than Heroin and 100 more times potent than morphine. A small dose of just 2 milligrams can kill anyone and if inhaled or ingested unknowingly, it can be deadly as well. Cocaine is also often laced with sprinkles of Fentanyl. A user may think they are ingesting Cocaine when in fact it’s Fentanyl and/or Heroin thereby causing an unintended reaction that can and has led to death.

Naloxone better known as Narcan is being used by law enforcement and first responders at an alarming rate throughout our county in hopes of reviving an otherwise near death user. For some, it has worked and for others, it hasn’t.

The distribution of and use of drugs in Robeson County is a contributing factor to crimes such as burglaries, physical and sexual assaults, and murder. We stand firm in our quest to combat this issue with an aggressive yet professional approach while at the same time seeking assistance for the addicted.

Drug dealers in Robeson County can expect to be seen sooner than later as we have decided to ramp up our visits even more as some have seen this past week. You have been warned as some continue to wreak havoc on our county. I repeat You Have Been Warned.

Over the next few weeks, we will be meeting with officials from across the state in hopes of securing ideas and more importantly, remedies in reaching the addicted through educational programs, mental health counseling, addiction support, short and long term rehab, and more. The talking is over as we must step forward with action. Our office looks forward to working with those that seek to bring these senseless overdoses and deaths to an end. Your Life Matters. Thank you."

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