Press Conference: Overdose Deaths Up 20% in 2023

Published on August 21, 2023

Charlotte, N.C. – (Monday, August 21, 2023) – Today the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), along with leaders from the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and the Federal Government joined together to raise awareness about the impact of fentanyl in our communities.


Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). A lethal dose of fentanyl is just two milligrams, small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.


So far in 2023, CMPD’s VICE Unit has seized approximately 30 kilograms of suspected fentanyl, that is enough to kill 15 million people. One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people. VICE has also seized more than 84,000 suspected fentanyl pills.


“No one should take a pill that’s not prescribed and picked up from a pharmacy,” said CMPD Major Luke Sell. “Counterfeit pills are often made with fentanyl. So, when a person takes a pill, thinking they are taking a safe medication, they could end up overdosing and dying.”


The number of fatal overdoses continues to increase. For perspective in 2018, CMPD reported 134 fatal overdoses for the entire year. So far in 2023, CMPD has reported 137 fatal overdoses. The current number of fatal overdoses are up 20% compared to this time in 2022.


“Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are very potent drugs that can quickly lead to cardiac arrest and death when ingested, inhaled, or injected,” said Dr. Christine Murphy, a toxicologist and emergency medicine physician with Atrium Health. “We have seen many patients who believed they were using drugs such as cocaine and marijuana but have stopped breathing and suffered a life-threatening event because fentanyl has been mixed with the drugs they used, without their knowledge.” 


Through the first half of 2023, CMPD has responded to approximately 1,000 overdose calls for service.  This number only represents the calls CMPD has responded to and does not account for the total number of responses by MEDIC.


CMPD urges families to be vigilant as well as open and honest about drug use. Fentanyl can be lurking in seemingly harmless pills and its impact is felt in every community across America.


“Fentanyl poses a serious threat to the health and safety of our communities.  Protecting our citizens from fentanyl’s deadly grip is more critical than ever,” said Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify criminal networks, disrupt fentanyl trafficking pipelines, and bring to justice those who spread this dangerous drug to our communities.”


Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather added “We stand united with our partners today, in resolute opposition to those who prey on the sick, the vulnerable, and the unsuspecting.  Above all, we will continue to utilize prosecution resources of this State as effectively as possible to protect the people of our community from being victimized by fentanyl.”


The CMPD comes together with our partners locally and across the state to recognize and raise awareness about this dangerous drug. Fentanyl is everywhere and knows no boundaries. We must continue to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose deaths from claiming more lives in our communities.


In addition, MEDIC and CMPD are working with HIDTA to roll out the O.D. Map app in our area. This will help officers and the community track overdose calls for service in real time, relaying critical & life-saving information.


“Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and leaves behind a trail of devastation and destruction,” said Robert Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Division. “Six in ten pills tested by the DEA laboratory contain a potentially lethal dose. We encourage families to have honest and open conversations about the dangers of fentanyl. One pill can kill.”


For more information on fentanyl and prevention resources visit the following sites:


 If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call the national hotline at 1-800-662-4357.




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