Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Up to 11 deaths, over 75 cases tied to Austin overdose surge

Captain Doug Schulz, with Austin-Travis County EMS’ C4 clinical navigation team, shows a naloxone nasal spray kit while assisting with a nearby overdose 911 call on Sept. 13, 2023, in Austin. Michael Minasi / KUT
Michael Minasi
KUT News
An Austin-Travis County EMS officer shows a naloxone nasal spray kit while assisting with an overdose 911 call in Austin.

A spate of suspected overdoses that began in Austin early this week has now climbed to 79 cases, an Austin-Travis County EMS representative said Thursday. Nine Travis County residents and two Williamson County residents have died of overdoses this week, according to authorities from both counties.

It is the largest surge in local drug overdoses since 2015. 911 calls originally came in a cluster from downtown Austin then spread to other areas of the city. Authorities from neighboring areas also warned residents to be vigilant of a "lethal batch" of drugs.

However, overdose-related calls appear to be slowing, ATCEMS division chief Angela Carr said at a news briefing Wednesday evening. She attributed this trend to the widespread distribution of Narcan, a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

“As of this afternoon, we have distributed over 400 doses of Narcan in just over 48 hours, and we're happy to report that it appears to be making an impact,” Carr said. “While we continue to see overdose cases across the city, the incident numbers are declining.”

ATCEMS had responded to seven overdoses by Wednesday evening, compared to 37 on Monday and 27 on Tuesday. No pediatric deaths have occurred, but one person in their late teens experienced an overdose.

Preliminary toxicology reports from the Travis County medical examiner show that fentanyl was present in all nine Travis County deaths, said Travis County public information officer Hector Nieto. Cocaine was also present in eight cases and methamphetamine in three.

Two Williamson County men also died this week from suspected overdoses, according to Williamson County Justice of the Peace KT Musselman. The first, a 34-year-old Round Rock man, was discovered deceased at home Wednesday after visiting downtown Austin on Tuesday. The second, an 18-year-old, was discovered Thursday at 11:45 a.m. Musselman said it was unclear if the second death was "connected to the other cases."

The Travis County medical examiner is conducting the autopsies of both individuals.

ATCEMS public information officer Christa Stedman said that overdose patients in Travis County had reported using a variety of drugs.

“People are not necessarily attempting to take an opiate. They're using K2, they're using crack cocaine, Xanax, a number of other substances,” she said. “Whatever is doing this is making its way into everything, and that's why we need everybody to be alert.”

The Austin Police Department is investigating the source of the drugs that caused the deadly string of overdoses. An APD representative said the department currently believes that the overdoses were caused by ingesting crack cocaine "potentially containing fentanyl."

Officers have arrested two people in connection with the drugs. However, the APD representative said at this time "nothing points to a single organized group distributing the illicit narcotics."

ATCEMS authorities reiterated that the public should continue to avoid taking drugs that have not been prescribed by a physician.

“Obviously, we would never encourage folks to use unknown substances … but for those who are going to use those drugs, we encourage folks to start low, go slow and never use alone,” said Dr. Heidi Abraham, chief deputy medical director for ATCEMS. “You should always have a sober friend with you who has Narcan available and can call 911 if necessary.”

Olivia Aldridge is KUT's health care reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @ojaldridge.
Related Content