VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT)- After years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanderburgh County is now facing an equally concerning problem: an epidemic of drug overdoses.

In 2021, the county say a record 106 overdose deaths, largely powered by one drug. It’s not cocaine, nor heroin or meth. It’s fentanyl. Statistics from the Vanderburgh County Coroner’s Office show 61 deaths were directly caused by fentanyl or a combination of drugs including fentanyl. As of early March, 12 people in Vanderburgh County have died from overdoses. Eight of them have died from fentanyl.

It’s not hard to exactly see why fentanyl has become such a problem. Vanderburgh County Coroner Steve Lockyear says even a small dose, as small as the head of a pen, can kill someone with a single dose in just minutes. Lockyear says it’s “a dangerous time to be using… this could end your life.”

Lockyear explains that this problem is not exclusive to one community, adding that it’s hard to find anyone in Vanderburgh County that hasn’t been impacted in one way or another by an overdose death, including himself.

A narcotics detective with the Evansville Police Department, who asked not to be shown on camera, said the community would be “lying to itself” to say we’re winning the “war on drugs.” He says victims and dealers have been found throughout Evansville.

But if fentanyl is so dangerous, then why are people still using it? Drug rehabilitation expert and recovering addict Nate Boyett says fentanyl takes a tight hold on people, even when they know their chances are a “crapshoot.”

Boyett says awareness of the danger is key for addicts and their families and he says there has been an uptick in people seeking treatment. Boyett says people are aware of the situation, whether they know someone who overdosed, witnessed it or even experienced it themselves. Seeing or experiencing that could be enough, Boyett says, because “there’s no coming back from death.”