Opioid Overdose Surge in Austin: Safety Tips and Resources

In the last few days, Austin has faced an alarming spike in opioid overdoses, with more than 50 cases reported across the area, including eight deaths. This surge has prompted a staggering 1000% increase in overdose emergency calls in one day. Early investigations point to the presence of high potency synthetic opioids (HPSOs), such as fentanyl, in substances being sold illegally as benzodiazepines like Valium, Klonopin and Xanax. Additionally, there are concerns about HPSO contamination of synthetic cannabinoids (“K2 or Spice”) and stimulants like amphetamines, cocaine, and methamphetamine. 

Whether you or someone you know is using these substances, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of overdose prevention and know where to find resources for assistance. 

“While this surge has thus far been limited to adults, it is important for families and communities to talk across all age groups about ways to stay safe. In this environment, experimentation can be deadly,” said Dr. Nicholas Yagoda, Chief Medical Officer for CommUnityCare. “The victims this week span all demographics – age, housing status, gender, race, ethnicity, and geography. Our entire community is at risk.” 

Here are some essential tips to help keep yourself and others safe:

  1. Don’t Use Alone: If possible, avoid using substances alone. Having someone with you can provide crucial support in case of an overdose. Consider reaching out to the Overdose Prevention Hotline at 1-800-972-0590 or using the Brave App for additional assistance.
  2. Start Low, Go Slow: When using substances, start with a small dose and gradually increase if necessary. This can help reduce the risk of overdose.
  3. Stagger Doses: If you’re using with a friend, consider staggering your doses. This means taking turns and giving each other time between doses to monitor for any adverse reactions.
  4. Avoid Mixing with Other Downers: Mixing substances like opioids with alcohol or other depressants can increase the risk of overdose. Stick to one substance at a time and avoid combining them.
  5. Be Cautious After a Break: If you haven’t used substances for a few days or more, be extra careful when starting again. Your tolerance may have decreased, increasing the risk of overdose.
  6. Use Fentanyl Test Strips: These strips can help identify the presence of fentanyl in substances, allowing you to make informed decisions about use.
  7. Carry Naloxone: Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse opioid overdoses. Make sure to always carry it with you and learn how to use it effectively.
  8. Access Naloxone: Naloxone is available for free at Narcan in Case of Emergency (NICE) vending machines located at various locations across Austin. Additionally, with a MAP card, you can obtain naloxone for free at any HEB or CommUnityCare pharmacy in Travis County.
  9. Seek Help: If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use, don’t hesitate to seek help. The CommUnityCare Addiction Medicine Clinic is available to provide support and assistance. You can call them at 512-978-9401 or visit the Southeast Health and Wellness Center during walk-in hours from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m., Monday through Friday.

In these challenging times, it’s important for us to come together as a community and support each other. By staying informed and taking proactive measures, we can help prevent overdoses and save lives. Remember, your safety and well-being are our top priorities. 

Stay safe, Austin.