Austin EMS crews speak on dangers of buying drugs off the street during SXSW

As locals and out-of-towners flood the city center of Austin, Austin-Travis County EMS crews are stationing downtown.

ATCEMS treats Spring Festival/SXSW events as its own "city-within-a-city" when it comes to responding to calls during this time. 

The department set up a "Patient Collection Point" near 5th St. and Brazos on Tuesday. It will be in operation through Saturday, March 19, from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily.

"Know that we’re here for you, but we hope we never have to see you," said Kevin Parker, ATCEMS commander for special events.

This year, SXSW comes a little over a week after paramedics responded to 18 drug overdoses within a 24-hour period along 6th Street. Drugs that caused the overdoses were believed to be laced with fentanyl or Xylazine.

For emergency responders, that event increased awareness of counterfeit drugs potentially circulating. But the potential dangers go beyond just purchasing drugs off the street.

In February, FOX 7 spoke to an Austin resident who believed his drink had been drugged while downtown, and he woke up the next day with no memory of what happened.

Over the weekend, another Austin resident posted a video on TikTok detailing a situation involving a friend’s friend.

"If you live in Austin or you are in town for South by Southwest, please be hyper cognizant," said user @spacey___casey. "A friend of a friend got what she thought was roofied on East 6th, but it turned out to be laced with fentanyl. The cops found her unconscious in the middle of the street and had to take her to the hospital."

@spacey_____casey please signal boost for #austin — locals and people in town for #sxsw !! be safe everyone!! #raineystreet #west6th #east6th #dirty6th #atx ♬ original sound - space case 

As of Tuesday night, the video had close to 900 comments, and multiple commenters were sharing similar stories.

When it comes to handling any type of medical emergency, Austin paramedics say they’re prepared with plenty of supplies on hand — everything from oxygen cylinders to Narcan.

But there are ways to help them and keep yourself safe.

"Number one, stay away from the street drugs," said Captain Darren Noak, public information officer for ATCEMS. "And anytime you’re in downtown in a bar situation, or out in public with drinks, keep an eye on that drink, and don’t accept drinks from strangers."

Captain Noak noted they have also seen an increase specifically in teen opioid overdoses within Travis County over the last few weeks.

2 dead, 12 others taken to hospital due to suspected fentanyl overdoses Downtown
Austin man's phone, money stolen after night out on Sixth Street
Austin officials identify drug involved in multiple overdoses
DEA partners with APD to investigate string of overdoses ahead of SXSW

SUBSCRIBE: Daily Newsletter | YouTube
FOLLOW: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter