FARGO — Fargo police are warning of an alarming rise in drug overdoses, putting the city on a path to easily surpass last year’s numbers.
During a media briefing on Thursday, June 3, the police department requested the community's assistance by reporting illegal drug activity in their neighborhoods and making sure people who are addicted get help.
Through the first five months of this year, Fargo police responded to 67 reports of overdoses, 13 of which were fatal, according to Narcotics Unit Lt. Matt Christensen.
In all of last year, 91 overdoses were reported. Of those, 18 people died.
It was the second-highest death toll over the last five years, behind 2017’s count of 20 fatalities.
The drugs most often implicated in overdoses locally are M30s, oxycodone or Percocet that contain fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.
The pills are typically small, round and blue. Some have “M30” stamped on them, but others have no markings.
Christensen said police decided to hold the briefing to remind the public about this continuing problem.
"I think sometimes it gets forgotten … if we don’t talk about it more," he said.
It’s not the first time Fargo police have issued an alert over dangerous overdose trends.
Fargo police urge people not to ingest any substance acquired illegally, because it may not be what it’s advertised to be.
They advise anyone experiencing overdose, or those around them, to call 911 immediately.
The state’s Overdose Prevention and Immunity Law protects overdose victims from prosecution for taking and/or having illegal drugs and protects anyone present during an overdose, provided they stay on scene until help arrives.
"Our number one goal is to save lives. So just make sure that they stand by and help, and if they can explain what they took or how much they took, that’s going to help with the medical care," Christensen said.
The immunity law also applies to other drugs found at the scene, regardless of whether they actually caused the overdose, he added. For example, if someone overdosed on a fentanyl pill and officers also found marijuana, they wouldn't be charged with a marijuana crime, either.
Another law that takes effect on Aug. 1 targets the people or groups of people responsible for manufacturing and distributing the dangerous drugs.
House Bill 1287 provides an enhanced penalty for drug dealers and traffickers found guilty of selling, distributing or delivering a controlled substance that causes the death of an individual.
Police asked people suffering from addiction, or those who know them, to seek help.
Narcan, which can counteract an opioid overdose, is available for free at the Harm Reduction Center, 510 Fifth St. N.
If anyone suspects illegal drug activity occurring around them, they’re encouraged to call the Fargo Police Narcotics Unit at 701-241-1405.