Richmond’s silent killer: deadly drug overdoses on the rise, fentanyl to blame

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The overwhelming majority of fatal drug overdoses in the Richmond metro area can be reduced to a specific substance. Once primarily seen in pain relievers, law enforcement has struggled to keep up with the overwhelming control of fentanyl.

Data recently released by the Virginia Department of Health shows the death toll in central Virginia: 128 people have died in Richmond from overdoses in the first half of 2021; 89% fentanyl.

Lagging behind numerically over the same period, Henrico and Chesterfield both experienced 69 fatal overdoses – fentanyl accounted for 84% and 74% of all overdoses, respectively.

Virginia Department of Health data

Fentanyl users like Stephanie Crowder have continued to escape potential death. 8News interviewed Crowder and other inmates at Chesterfield County Jail who have been addicted to fentanyl in the past.

“I am on day 11 of detox from fentanyl and methamphetamines,” Crowder said, noting that she was feeling “not well, not well” and weak.

“My body hurts, it’s hard to think, it’s hard to hope,” she said.

But it is hope that recovering drug addicts like Jamie Baker in Richmond hold dear. He was first addicted to opioid pain relievers and fentanyl patches after being diagnosed with leukemia several years ago.

However, after moving away from addiction, he relapsed last month after spending six months in prison for drug possession.

“They’ve done ‘Narcan’d’ to me six times. Without this Narcan, I wouldn’t be alive today, ”said Baker.

Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard said the pandemic restrictions worsened the problems for drug addicts because people needing in-person treatment did not have access to typical resources.

Chesterfield inmate Amber Nunnally said “nothing was there at that time” when she needed it while incarcerated at Riverside Regional Jail for a separate offense.

Sara Lowery, a third inmate inside Chesterfield Prison who spoke to 8News about it, said she decided not to post bail because the unattended recovery she gets in jail could cause problems.

“If I don’t stay in a controlled environment, before long enough, I’m going to go out and I’m going to die,” Lowery said.

Inmates interviewed by 8News also said it was much cheaper to buy fentanyl than other drugs like cocaine.

Sheriff Leonard said investigators know fentanyl is being trafficked to the states from outside the country, but the amount in circulation is unknown.

About Rhonda Lee

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