Recent Overdoses in New York Show How Drug Abuse can Harm People of All Backgrounds


Several fatal overdoses that occurred in New York City all within a few days of each other present grim warnings for all Americans:

First, each person who died believed they were using pure cocaine when really they were using cocaine laced with fentanyl.

Second, the individuals who died were from very different backgrounds, demographics, and income classes. One was a social worker, another a young lawyer, and another a wealthy entrepreneur.

Third, it’s believed all of the users had the same drug dealer, and that dealer knew there was something off about his drug supply because he warned the three users to “Go easy” on the drugs that he sold to them.

Finally, all three drug users received their drugs from a delivery service, indicating that the black market drug trafficking space is becoming far more advanced and difficult to track than it used to be.

These factors serve as a painful reminder that drug abuse can affect anyone and that no one is safe from the risks of a fatal overdose if they experiment with drugs, even just once.

The Story

Three New Yorkers died of fentanyl overdoses on the same day after ordering cocaine from the same drug dealer. The victims were:

Julia Ghahramani, a 26-year-old lawyer who had just started her first job at a legal firm.

Ross Mtangi, a 40-year-old Wall Street stock trading executive.

Amanda Scher, a 38-year-old social worker.

All three individuals ordered what they thought was pure cocaine from a dealer they had done business with previously. The alleged dealer, Billy Ortega, used a GrubHub-like delivery service to deliver the drugs to the three users. Sadly (and this was unknown to all three users at the time), the cocaine they used was laced with lethal doses of fentanyl, a potent opioid.

Further, it seems Ortega did not know the cocaine was laced with fentanyl until the last minute. Details from the investigation revealed Ortega sent numerous text messages, voice calls, and voicemails to his three clients shortly after his courier dropped the drugs off, urging each of his clients “…not to do too much because it’s really strong.”

Ortega, and his courier Kaylen Rainey, have both pled not guilty to causing the three deaths and distributing the drugs. Both are awaiting trial.

Fentanyl Is In NYC’s Cocaine Supply

New York ambulance
Photo by rblfmr/

According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, cocaine is a popular drug of choice for NYC professionals. Local health officials estimate cocaine usage rates in the city are at 2% (2 out of 100 New Yorkers identifying as active users), far higher than the usage rate across the rest of the country.

New York City recorded 980 cocaine-related deaths in 2020, but 81% of those deaths were linked to fentanyl, suggesting the vast majority of fatal cocaine overdoses are caused by cocaine laced with fentanyl without the addict knowing. Cocaine fatalities from pure cocaine, on the other hand, are in the low hundreds and have remained in that range for years.

Fentanyl deaths in New York City are spiking year after year, continually. It is widely believed that the three individuals who all died on the same day would never have used the drugs that killed them had they known those drugs had fentanyl in them.

While there are many warning signs and concerning factors attendant with the story of the three victims, perhaps the most significant takeaway is this. New York City is experiencing a surge in fentanyl-related drug overdose fatalities. That has resulted from non-opioid drugs (cocaine) that addicts previously considered “safe” or, at the very least, “manageable” now being mixed with fentanyl.

Addiction Treatment Is Lifesaving

As drugs become more potent and widespread, and as dangerous synthetic opioid compounds become mixed into other drug supplies, the drug abuse landscape of today truly knows no class or racial bounds. Anyone of any age, gender, race, income level, ethnicity, background, or geographic location can be the victim of addiction and a fatal overdose, which is why it’s so important for addicts to get help at treatment centers.

No one is safe from the harmful effects of addiction and drug abuse. If you know someone who is using drugs and cannot stop, please help them enter a drug and alcohol rehab center today. Make their future story a happy one, not a grim news headline.


  • YahooNews. “Three New Yorkers die of fentanyl overdose after ordering cocaine from drug delivery service.” Yahoo News, 2022.
  • NYCHealth “Cocaine Use in New York City: Morbidity and Mortality.” New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2015.
  • NYCHealth. “Fentanyl.” New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2022.



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.