Gallatin police say they have seen an alarming rise in overdoses across the city recently after three people died in less than two weeks earlier this month.
In all, five separate overdoses were reported between June 8 and June 20, according to Lt. Lamar Ballard with the Gallatin Police Department. The deceased include two 32-year-old males and a 40-year-old male.
While causes of death have not yet been determined, police suspect heroin use in each case.
“We’re seeing an increase in overdoses because we’re seeing an increase in heroin,” Ballard said. “It’s people that are addicted to narcotics and they are getting heroin that is either very pure or it has been laced with fentanyl.
“It reaches out and touches almost every family.”
The number of deaths nationwide involving heroin in combination with synthetic narcotics has been steadily increasing since 2014 and is being driven by the use of fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the synthetic opioid is about 10-times stronger than heroin, Ballard said users are more likely to overdose on the drug since they don’t know how to regulate it themselves.
In several cases, Gallatin Police Chief Don Bandy said the individuals reportedly “didn’t take a step” before collapsing.
“It’s alarming,” Bandy said. “Heroin could kill you period if you do it enough, but this stuff is very, very potent.”
In Sumner County, there were 40 drug overdose deaths in 2017, according to the most recent available data from the Tennessee Department of Health. Of those, 10 were related to heroin use.
So far this year, Gallatin police have used Narcan 15 times on individuals who have been suspected of overdosing. The nasal spray can be lifesaving by counteracting the effects of an opioid overdose.
Authorities are also aggressively investigating each overdose death to determine where the drugs came from and the identity of the supplier.
In March, police arrested suspected drug dealer 32-year-old Brandon Flatford and charged him with one count of second-degree murder following a nine-month investigation into the death of a Gallatin man last year.
“It’s tragic that we’re losing lives,” Ballard said. “Our goal is to find out who is responsible and to charge them appropriately.”