More than 300 Jefferson County deaths linked to fentanyl in 2022

Officials also seeing more Black men dying of opioid overdoses
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 9:22 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Officials say more people are dying from opioid overdoses than car accidents or gun crime in Jefferson County.

“Of all the traumatic unnatural deaths, opioid deaths is number one,” Jefferson County Coroner Bill Yates said. “Opioid deaths have surpassed gun deaths in the cases we investigate.”

Yates said 417 people died from opioid overdoses last year, most of them related to fentanyl poisoning, and there’s one demographic seeing a significant rise.

“Of the 417 drug overdoses in 2022 that have been certified, 339 are a direct result of fentanyl,” Yates said.

Toxicology reports are showing fentanyl mixed with stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, and alcohol. Yates said it doesn’t take much fentanyl to be toxic, and when it is being mixed with these other drugs, that can make it even more deadly.

“What’s scary is you don’t know the ratio you’re getting, or the mix, or the potency of it,” Yates said. “Even the illicit pills that might be marked as one type of pill, they’re really not. They’re fentanyl mixture.”

Yates said they’re seeing deaths in all age groups, but now they’re seeing more Black men dying of opioid overdoses. Those numbers have been rising for the last few years.

“2020, 2021, there is a huge increase in that community,” Yates said. “In 2022, it somewhat leveled off, but we are still seeing an increase. Now black males have surpassed white males as the most frequent demographic to overdose on drugs in Jefferson County.”

Yates said these numbers can paint a clear picture of just how much deadly fentanyl is likely in the community.

“The overdose cases we are investigating, the percentage of them is so high, then I think you can easily transfer that to what is on the street,” he said. “It is highly likely it has fentanyl in it.”

Yates said there are likely more accidental overdoses in 2022, but they are still waiting on more toxicology reports to come back. So far this year, they suspect there has already been 35 overdoses, but are waiting for toxicology reports.

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