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‘Laced’ opioids leading to more overdoses, deaths in El Paso

Contaminated oxycodone pills seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

EL PASO, Texas -- The medical community is concerned about a rise in opioid overdoses in the Borderland.

One local doctor told ABC-7 she believes laced drugs purchased illegally are to blame.

"We're concerned that people are buying what they think is oxycodone off the street and it turns out to be fentanyl. Without intending to, they overdose on it," said Dr. Sarah Watkins.

Watkins is an emergency medicine physician at University Medical Center of El Paso. She also serves as the medical director of the West Texas Regional Poison Center.

She said more calls are coming into the poison center concerning life-threatening overdoses. Watkins said the callers say they only took one pill of what they thought was oxycodone.

Watkins said the uptick has occurred over the last month. She said she knows at least a couple of people at UMC have died of overdoses.

"My biggest concern is that with Covid-19 causing so much increased anxiety in people's lives, they will turn to medication or illicit substances as a way to cope with that stress. And unintentionally, they might be ending their lives because of that," she added.

Drug use climbs during the pandemic

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, more than 20 million people in the U.S. have a substance abuse disorder.

The recession caused by the pandemic may lead to 75,000 deaths from drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, and suicide, according to the AAMC.

The AAMC also found drug overdoses since the start of the pandemic have climbed 18 percent. With more people being hospitalized for Covid, there is more demand for legal and illegal opioids.

"Anytime someone overdoses on an opioid or a medication, we want to get them connected with social resources whether that's meeting with a social worker, a psychiatrist or a therapist," Watkins said. "We want to get them connected with those resources that will help them in the long term."

If you or someone you know has substance abuse issues, there is help.

Aliviane is the primary provider of mental health and substance use services in west Texas. Call Aliviane at (915) 782-4000.

Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.



    1. The same 4-5 Ole El Paso White bigots starting of labor weekend pissed. Lol. No place for bitter gringos in this world. Their sight is nauseating. Spit in their food when they go eat so they can swallow some Mexican loogies. Dang societal drains.

  1. Let them all die, they are nothing more than leeches sucking resources dry that healthy law abiding citizens deserve. Look at the ones standing on the corners begging, they don’t deserve anything but a hole in the ground with the dirt to throw on top of them

  2. Funny how memt357 is worried about resources when he sits at home scratching his white little balls all day collecting a government check. Problem is the gringos want all the resources for them so they can stay home like senoritas. Useless maggots. Can’t do much, everything has to be done for them. Pretty hand boys.

  3. Why are the KKKVIA trolls on here so full of hate? Fero2a you are not fooling anyone going by the name AlbertVelarde. Shame on you bringing George Floyd’s name into this. Go to church boo.

  4. FYI Madmike I’m in the top 1% in income. Never lived off the government like you and yours useless gringo buddies. Ouch! My toe nail was damaged when I went on a tour. Up that disability. Stupid ass white section 8. Fly that flag!! It pays for your lazy life. Lol.

    1. Alberto Velarde,thrown out of the Navy for drugs and homosexuality. Unable to have a career because of an other that honorable discharge. A series of minimum wage jobs, ended up in government assistance housing

  5. Alberto? Made up name to deflect the gringo lazy stay at home life. Meanwhile their ladies putting food on e table. Lol. The modern so called prideful American. Suckling pigs.

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