Austin opioid overdose outbreak: DEA weighs in on fentanyl crisis

AUSTIN, Texas - After an overdose outbreak that left an estimated nine people dead, ATCEMS said the agency is back to its regular number of calls. That announcement came on Friday.

Close to 80 people overdosed in total, in an outbreak that began Monday, April 29.

"I don't know exactly how often, but I've seen at least in four different cities where something like this has taken place," said Special Agent in Charge Daniel Comeaux of the Houston Field Division of the DEA.

Comeaux wasn’t able to comment specifically on the Austin overdose event but provided some context to the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

"A lot of times people say, ‘Wait a minute, why would the drug cartels put out something that causes overdoses or causes people to die?’" said Comeaux. "Well, they understand and history has shown there's just going to be someone else that steps in their place."

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After the recent overdoses, APD conducted multiple drug busts. According to police, the five people arrested were not directly linked to the overdose outbreak but were found with multiple drugs laced with fentanyl, including marijuana.

"It's very possible, and it's an unfortunate thing, because so many people believe that it’s just marijuana, but it's not just marijuana. It could be marijuana laced with anything," said Comeaux. "We've seen it in crack cocaine. We've seen it in powder cocaine. We've also seen it in methamphetamine, where oftentimes it appears that maybe the drug dealer made a mistake. He didn't realize he was putting in a synthetic fentanyl, or mixing it with cocaine, and he thought it was cocaine being mixed with a cutting agent or just cocaine."

Comeaux said many of the precursors come from China.

"And then once the precursors arrive from China, they make their way into Mexico, or they go straight to Mexico from China," said Comeaux. "And then, these big pill press drug cartels are making the pills and then getting them to come back north into the United States."

In March, U.S. Senator John Cornyn from Texas introduced an act to help improve the process for inspecting cars for fentanyl when crossing the border.

"In 2024, one pill can kill, and it's very evident out there," said Comeaux.