AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a Travis County commissioners’ court work session Thursday, the county’s chief medical examiner said there were three people that died from a series of overdoses last week — the Austin Police Department had previously reported two fatalities.
“From those individuals, three were dead at the scene and were examined at our office,” Dr. Keith Pinckard said. “I don’t have final toxicology testing on those yet, however we did expedite that testing.”
While the final toxicology testing is not complete, Pinckard did produce initial results for commissioners which showed that in all three cases, cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl were detected. One patient also had Phencyclidine, or PCP, in their system, according to those initial findings.
“Any one of those drugs — fentanyl, cocaine or methamphetamine — can all be lethal in and of themselves,” Pinckard said.
The work session comes after several people died of drug overdoses on the same night and a dozen others went to the hospital. That overall incident is now at the center of a statewide investigation.
The initial toxicology results presented by Pinckard did not list Xylazine, a drug used in veterinary medicine, even though the Austin-Travis County Office of the Chief Medical Officer warned over the weekend it may be to blame for recent overdoses, citing local hospitals.
“Right now basically you have some mad chemist in the garage making these pills,” Daniel Comeaux, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s Houston division, said at a news conference earlier this week. “It’s not pharmaceutical companies. It’s not a doctor prescribing them. It’s individuals literally in the garage with a $10 machine putting together these pills, so there’s no true medical use for them and it’s causing overdose.”
“I’m hoping that the word on the street travels fast,” Commissioner Ann Howard said Thursday in a work session where commissioners talked about this and the future of public defense in Travis County with the public defender’s office, among others.
Narcan is working and people are using it
Heidi Abraham, the deputy medical director at Austin-Travis County EMS, said they’re seeing roughly 30 opiate overdoses every day right now. She also noted that roughly 20 times a month people are getting Narcan administered to them before EMS arrives.
Narcan is a brand name for naloxone and is an emergency treatment that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.
“If people are still alive when EMS get there, they stay alive,” Abraham said. She also noted that even if Narcan works, it’s still important to call 911 if you find someone having symptoms of an overdose.
The director of operations at Recovery Unplugged recommends people carry Narcan ahead of large events coming to Austin, like South by Southwest, and as an overall best practice. He carries the antidote in his truck, he said.
“I recommend everybody get Narcan, there is a standing prescription order at every Walgreens, CVS and H-E-B in Texas to where anybody can go to any of those pharmacies and purchase Narcan themselves,” Layne Lomaglio said. “I’ve seen Narcan save a lot of lives.”
You can find more information about identifying an overdose and when to give Narcan on the More Narcan Please website through the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing.
Lomaglio also says education around opiate use, opening up channels of communication about it and not enabling the users is critical to helping solve this problem.
“If you’re asking for what people can do to help stop this, is talk about it,” Lomaglio said. “Open the communication, stop the stigma around opiate use and opiate abuse.”