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    ATLANTA (WGCL) -- Bars in East Atlanta are taking a proactive approach to prevent drug overdoses.

At least five people overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl at or near metro Atlanta bars this week, according to the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition.

“Usually you don’t find fentanyl, an opioid, a downer, in cocaine, a stimulant, an upper,” said Mona Bennett, an ambassador for the organization. “In these cases, I suspect the people were expecting just cocaine, but a lot of drug sellers cut there’s with a lot of other stuff.”

Wanting to prevent further loss of life, several bars partnered with Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition and Georgia Overdose Prevention to host training on how to administer Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an overdose.

“This is very effective if given in a timely manner,” Bennett said. “I’ve known children in the single digits who have saved their relatives by this.”

On Friday, dozens of people attended training sessions at Star Community Bar in Little Five Points, where attendees were given free boxes of the medicine.

“This substance has pulled people from the edge of death,” Bennett said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 36,000 people died in 2019 from overdoses involving synthetic opioids. That’s 12 times higher than in 2013 and data suggests death counts during the pandemic could be even higher.

“We’re making them the heroes,” said Andy Gish, a registered nurse who lives in East Atlanta.

Gish believes harm reduction works.

“This is a way to keep people from dying and honestly the people who get reversed and get involved with these organizations are often our best advocates,” she said. “They’re out there teaching people.”

Gish said equipping people with Narcan is not enabling illegal drug use. Instead, she believes it can lead to recovery.

“You have to give them a chance,” she added. “If they’re dead, I mean what’s the point?”

Georgia is one of at least 19 states that offers protection to people who call 911 for someone experiencing an overdose.

Mary’s in East Atlanta Village is hosting the next Narcan class on Sunday, June 13 from 2-3pm.

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