AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – There is an alarming number of people dying from a specific type of opioid. These types of deaths even outnumber traffic fatalities.

“You never know whether this pill here is going to be your last one,” said Mark Bowen, Richmond County Coroner.

It’s the unexpected drug killing people now. Opioid death by fentanyl.

“Fentanyl related overdose deaths have become increasingly prominent,” said Aaron Johnson, Augusta University’s Director of Institute of Public and Preventive Health. “So, the most recent numbers I saw indicated that about 75-80 percent of overdose deaths are now fentanyl related. Five years ago that would have been 15-20 percent.”

Numbers from law enforcement show that fentanyl deaths outnumber traffic fatalities in Aiken and Richmond Counties. Aiken County Coroner Darryl Ables reported there have been 37 people to overdose from fentanyl while 23 people have died from crashes this year. Bowen reported there have been 36 fentanyl deaths, while the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said 30 people died from crashes this year so far.

“My office is called, there is no recovery. There is no rehab. There is nothing we can do at this point other than investigate it,” Bowen told us. “But we have to break the news to your loved one.”

He added that he saw the problem early last year. Out of 107 ODs, 64 were from fentanyl. While the sheriff’s office reported 48 automobile deaths in 2021. In Aiken County last year, Ables said 44 people died from fentanyl while 38 died in crashes.

Johnson told us people who OD typically are not aware they have a substance laced with fentanyl in their hands. He said they are usually looking for heroin or another pill such as oxycodone.

He said, “It’s about 70 to 100 times more potent than morphine. So, a tiny amount can really lead to an overdose.”

Johnson explained how the synthetically manufactured drug is shipped into the U.S. from China in containers that are as small as lipstick. He said the goal of declaring an opioid crisis was to get resources, help that may never come for people who die from using fentanyl just once. Despite it all he said there are prevention methods.

“Active users can purchase fentanyl test strips so that if they do buy a pill or buy heroin they can actually test the drug before they take it to make sure that it’s not laced with fentanyl.