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'No substance is safe' | Batch of cocaine laced with fentanyl leads to multiple overdoses in Virginia

In Fairfax County, police report 55 deadly overdoses so far this year; 201 people survived their overdoses.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — News of a bad batch of cocaine circulating in Fairfax County caught the attention of first responders in neighboring Arlington and Alexandria, who are now alerting their own communities. While Alexandria City Police say they have not yet seen the fentanyl-laced cocaine in their community, they’re on a mission to save lives.

Early Tuesday morning, Fairfax County first responders rushed to a high rise in Falls Church to save the lives of six people who were suffering from an overdose. Later that same night two more people overdosed. 

Investigators are still working to determine if either of the night cases was related to the contaminated cocaine found at the morning scene. 

“There is likely a fatal batch of cocaine laced with fentanyl in our community right now,” Fairfax Police Chief Kevin Davis said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. 

The chief's stern warning is the latest development in the fight against rising overdoses in the DMV region. In Fairfax County, police report 55 deadly overdoses so far this year; 201 people survived their overdoses.  

Emily Bentley is an opioid response coordinator in Alexandria and partners with Captain Monica Lysle from the Alexandria City Police Department to address the growing crisis.  According to their team’s latest figures, there have been 53 opioid-related overdoses, including four deaths, so far this year -- a 55.6% decrease from this same time last year.  

But Bentley said don’t be fooled by the numbers.

RELATED: Police: 6 people found unconscious in Fairfax County apartment likely overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine

“We’re finding fentanyl laced in every substance people can purchase," Bentley said. "So even if people don’t use opioids, they should know they are not safe from fentanyl or opioid overdoses."

Dr. Paul Christo from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The doctor said the pandemic has only worsened the opioid crisis.  

“When we see friends and family members sick in the ICU with COVID and dying, it destroys our coping mechanisms,” Christo said. "And it leads to the use of these substances.”

Bentley said anyone who continues to take illegal substances is encouraged to use fentanyl test strips -- which are free -- so they can determine if their drug contains this deadly synthetic.  

“The primary message we really want to drive home is no substance is safe from fentanyl any longer,” she said. 

Bentley also said everyone should carry Narcan with them to help combat the opioid crisis. The nasal spray is free from most pharmacies and health departments. It is harmless, but when immediately administered to a person experiencing an opioid overdose, it can save their life.

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