DEA partners with APD to investigate string of overdoses ahead of SXSW

The Drug Enforcement Agency has partnered with the Austin Police Department to investigate a string of overdoses in Downtown Austin

"We’re going to stand shoulder to shoulder," said Special Agent in Charge Daniel Comeaux of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Houston Division. 

Eighteen people overdosed – two fatally, early Friday. 

The incident happened exactly one week before SXSW, Austin’s biggest festival, is set to kick off. 

"Our community saw the impact drugs have," said APD Assistant Chief Jerry Bauzon. 

In a joint press conference Tuesday, law enforcement could not confirm how the drugs were ingested. Though Comeaux told reporters "counterfeit pills" are a growing problem.  

"Right now, you basically have some mad chemists in the garage making these pills," he said.

APD could not confirm what drugs triggered the overdoses. However, officers indicated they may have been cut with fentanyl. 

"A synthetic opioid that's similar to heroin, but much more powerful," Bauzon explained. 

Law enforcement is also looking at the drug xylazine. 

The Office of Travis County’s Chief Medical Officer issued an advisory on the drug last week. It is often used to sedate large animals such as horses. 

"What [medics are] seeing is that it takes a lot more of the dosage of the naloxone, the Narcan, to bring [overdose victims] back to a state where they're breathing on their own and their respiratory state is back to normal," said Captain Darren Noak of Austin-Travis County EMS. 

As thousands flock to Austin for SXSW, Bauzon said the department is partnering with the city’s public information office to warn visitors. 

"We do have an organized crime division here at the Austin Police Department, and I will say that we will have undercover officers out during SXSW," he said. 

In 2021 the CDC reported more than 100,000 overdose deaths in the United States — a record. Sixty-four percent were attributed to synthetic opioids. 

Austin officials identify drug involved in multiple overdoses
2 dead, 12 others taken to hospital due to suspected fentanyl overdoses Downtown
Fentanyl-induced overdoses increasing, more drugs being laced with it

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