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3 overdose deaths in 3 days 'extremely uncommon' for Fargo, police say

Cass County could match or exceed 2021 drug overdose numbers, health expert says. Authorities warn residents of the dangers of overdoses and how to spot them.

These M30 pills, which have been sold as Oxycodone by drug dealers, contain fentanyl that could be lethal to those who consume them, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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FARGO — Fargo authorities are warning residents about the dangers of overdoses after three people died in recent days.

The Fargo Police Department responded to two overdose calls each on Saturday, Aug. 6, and Monday, Aug. 8, Criminal Investigations Capt. George Vinson said Thursday. In separate calls on Saturday, a 20-year-old woman and 28-year-old man died after ingesting drugs, the captain said.

Another 20-year-old woman died Monday, Vinson said. In another call, emergency responders were able to save a 26-year-old woman from an overdose after giving her Narcan, a drug used to reverse the impacts of opioids, he said.

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“Addicts don't do very well sitting by themselves with their own thoughts for months at a time. They say that the opposite of addiction is connection, and I find that really to be true.”

“It’s extremely uncommon in the city of Fargo to have three overdose deaths in one weekend,” Vinson said.

Police are investigating what drugs caused the overdoses, Vinson said, but officers suspect counterfeit M30 pills may be involved. Officers do not know of any information that would connect the overdoses.


The fake blue pills have been marketed on the street as oxycodone medication, but they often contain a mixture of other drugs, including fentanyl, an opioid known to be hundreds of times more potent than heroin.

Fargo, as well as the rest of North Dakota and the U.S., have seen dramatic rises in opioid overdoses over recent years, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 108,000 people died from drug overdoses last year in the country, according to preliminary numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was a 15% increase from 2020.

Opioids were involved in roughly 75% of the overdose deaths in 2020 and 2021, the CDC reported. Multiple drugs can contribute to a single death, Vinson noted.

The Fargo police captain said he couldn’t provide numbers on overdose deaths this year since some may be unconfirmed. The Fargo Police Department said it responded to 148 overdoses last year, 35 of which were fatal.

That’s up from 94 overdoses, including 21 deaths, in 2020. Officers responded to 36 overdoses in 2019, 11 of which were fatal.

Based on information from the local harm reduction center and the number of people served, Cass County is on track this year to meet or exceed 2021 overdoses, said Robin Litke Sall, a prevention coordinator for Fargo Cass Public Health.

In 2020, 59 people died from overdoses in Cass County, about a 40% increase from 2019, Sall said. Deaths jumped an additional 29% in 2021, she said.

More people are using the harm reduction center and its resources, Sall said. Last year, it provided 6,335 doses of naloxone, the generic name for Narcan, and 459 people reported overdose reversals using the medication, she said.


The center also provides clean syringes and fentanyl test strips, as well as services to help fight drug addiction. The organization tries to meet people where they are at.

Sall said a good first step is seeking help and resources.

People who notice signs of an overdose should call 911, Fargo Fire Division Chief Tim Binfet said. That way they can respond as quickly as possible to help.

Those who experience an overdose will have lips and nails that turn blue or purple, accompanied by shallow or no breathing, gurgling sound and/or pinpoint pupils, Sall said.

“Opioids slow down your central nervous system, so everything just pretty much stops,” she said.

North Dakota has an immunity law that protects those who help someone who is overdosing. Those people must seek medical attention, stay on scene until assistance arrives and cooperate with medical staff in treating an overdose.

People can call 211 to find resources for fighting drug addiction.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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