NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - While heroin and fentanyl busts continue to make headlines, the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office is also reporting an increase in the number of cocaine seizures in the county.
"We're seeing more powdered cocaine, but more crack cocaine as well, so the two go hand in hand," said Lt. Jerry Brewer. "It's definitely going up. We've seen more seizures, so it's something we notice, take a look at and then adjust our investigations."
Brewer said it was difficult to quantify the increase at this point, but that detectives were taking notice.
"Drugs in general have trends. We see a certain drug go up for a while then come back down, and seeing things totally flip flop," he said.
Robert Childs with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition said state data showed the highest level of overdose deaths from cocaine in 16 years in 2016.
Childs said the increased death rate could be caused by a mixture of cocaine and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
"The thing I would be concerned about is anyone who does poly-substance use with an upper and a downer is it increases your chance of overdose with both substances," he said.
Childs said that new fentanyl testing kits would allow people to make decisions to avoid an overdose.
"This has lead to big surprises and people overdosing with zero intentions of overdosing because they didn't know there was fentanyl in it," Childs explained. "Is it in all cocaine? Absolutely not. Is it in some cocaine? Yes."
He hopes that ultimately, users will be encouraged to seek treatment for their addiction.