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'Killer heroin' causing fatal overdoses in East

'Bad Heroin' Mixed With Fentanyl Blamed For Dozens Of Deaths

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. (AP) - On an icy night last month, a man entered a grocery store here, walked past the displays of cake mix and paper towels and into the bathroom, where he injected himself with heroin.

Hours later, the man was found dead in the bathroom with a needle still in his arm, authorities said. They believe the man was one of more than 80 across the country who have died in recent weeks after injecting heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate.

As the number of people who use, and fatally overdose on, heroin has skyrocketed in recent years, authorities are seeing the return of an alarming development: heroin that, often unbeknownst to the user, is spiked with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a narcotic that is typically administered to people in chronic pain, including end-stage cancer patients. It is also used as an anesthetic. It is considered 80 times more powerful than morphine and can kill by inhibiting breathing.

"The dealers push this as being a super high, which it is, but it's also lethal," said Ellen Unterwald, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the Temple University School of Medicine. Users typically don't know how much fentanyl is mixed in, and she said just a small amount can be fatal because the drug is so potent.

"A very small amount can exert a very significant effect," said Eric Strain, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Research at Johns Hopkins University.

In Maryland, at least 37 people have died from the combined drugs, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and in Western Pennsylvania, authorities said they caused 22 deaths in recent weeks. In Rhode Island, 25 people have died from the laced heroin, and in Vermont state police have warned that pure fentanyl is being sold as heroin.

After Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead with a syringe in his arm this month, investigators in New York tested the heroin found in his apartment for fentanyl, but found that it did not include the additive.

With more and more addicts turning to heroin because crackdowns on powerful prescription opiate painkillers have made them more expensive and inaccessible, there is concern that more people may be exposed to fentanyl-laced heroin during this wave than in previous ones, including in 2006 when hundreds of people from Chicago to Philadelphia died after injecting the drugs.

Last month the Drug Enforcement Administration put out a bulletin warning local authorities of what it dubbed "killer heroin," a mixture that was up to half Fentanyl. It urged first responders to "exercise extreme caution" when coming into contact with any heroin because Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin. It is unclear where the Fentanyl is coming from. It is typically only distributed in hospitals. It can be administered in the form of a patch, a drip or a lollipop, which patients in pain suck on.

Heroin dealers put so-called stamps on the bags that hold their product, allowing users to delineate between different batches. Oftentimes they are product logos. Authorities said bags bearing the stamps "Bud Light," ''Theraflu" and "Income Tax" have tested positive for fentanyl.

"A lot of those people thought that Bud Light was really hot, it's really good stuff, it sends you over the edge," said Ocean County, N.J. Prosecutor Joseph Coronato. "It's a marketing tool, almost."

Ocean County has been besieged by heroin and prescription drug overdoses in the past two years; in 2012 there were 53 overdoses in the county that hugs the Jersey Shore and last year there were 112.

"The demand is so high. That's the problem that's out there," Coronato said.

T.J. Smith, a spokesman for the police in Anne Arundel County, Md., said there have been four cases within the last year of heroin found with fentanyl in it, which he called an "unusually high number" in the county. Smith said heroin - both pure and laced with fentanyl - is driving a major increase in property crime. He said the drug has undergone a major change in the past year, with more potentially fatal doses found with fentanyl.

"It's a different heroin now," Smith said. "You can't use that same amount of heroin that you used a year ago because now it has a fentanyl kick in it."

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slackwarerobert February 24 2014 at 2:32 PM

This couldn't happen if you taught kids chemistry in school still.
Then pure heroin would be a GOOD thing as you would cut it yourself and save money.
Being able to sue your dealer for selling defective drugs would also help, alas that means the government looses its war on taxpayers and has to fire all it's cronies that attack us.

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snowflakes32010 February 18 2014 at 11:27 AM

I am a mother of a past heroin addict...luckily my son survived.
His hard work to become clean and his involvement in church has put him in a place I never thought I'd see...my son has become a very humble soul not bitter or angry at life...but accepting that is key accepting all good and bad and getting through it without making excuses if times were not in his favor...and for that I am proud. I learn from all the time never letting the unimportant things in life bring you down.That God plays the most important role in our lives.

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lineman February 17 2014 at 5:44 PM

When your dope sick, U shoot anything ,just too eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssss the pain. Like Mr .Smith said's It's different today.

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bdobrin521 February 17 2014 at 5:26 PM

the users choose not to stop using,saying it,s the most wonderful feeling in the world.If they want to stop they need to go to heavy detox. for a long time

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schaefferdrywall February 17 2014 at 5:10 PM

The one selling this drug to users are accountable and should be held responcible for their death's

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1 reply to schaefferdrywall's comment
slackwarerobert February 24 2014 at 2:41 PM

Why? Do you hold chevy responsible when someone drives into a tree and kills themselves?
Now if they sold them draino instead of heroin you might have a case. IF you can prove they didn't order draino, and the dealer sold it to him.
But since the government set the president that you can sell sugar and still be charged as if you sold heroin I don't see how it will help if it wasn't heroin.
The SCHOOLS are at fault, they use to teach chemistry, so you could easily test your dope.

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ANTON February 17 2014 at 4:51 PM

Having seen (and lived) through all the changes in the pain laws in the past 20 years I was glad to see they put this in the story......."With more and more addicts turning to heroin because crackdowns on powerful prescription opiate painkillers have made them more expensive and inaccessible, there is concern that more people may be exposed to fentanyl-laced heroin during this wave than in previous ones." The DEA has created this mess, they built this Frankenstein monster on the backs of pain patients. It is common knowledge that the DEA and others in the drug industry knew how deadly acetaminophen is, the DEA in their wisdom thought that by adding this poison to the hydrocodone pills patients would not abuse the medicine, 10/650 hydros were the norm for 25 years but only QID or 4 a day due to the 650 mg of acetaminophen that eats your liver. Now they lowered the amount to 325 mg and are going to go down to 100 mg.
The DEA is trying to bully doctors, pharmacists, politicians and anyone else into submission on their quest to stop the monster they created. I started taking pain meds 20+ years ago for my condition, 120 10/650 hydros, then I had them compounded to lessen the poison of acetaminophen, I would get 20 mg of hydro and only 80 mg of acetaminophen which allowed me to take up to 12 a day, 360 a month. I finally got off the poison of acetaminophen 2 years ago when my doctor switched me to oxycodone and morphine and my liver is back to normal. I never abused my meds, never had to, always had enough to keep my pain levels low enough to function and work, 10 to 12 20 mg hydros a day to what a take now but I don't get the head high nor do I chase the head high, I still take one at a time as needed not 5 or 6 like others I have seen.
But I have seen the changes, from doctors to pain clinics, to forgery protected scripts, my doctor of the last 10 years was forced to open a pain clinic where I too was forced to go to get my meds, even though I was his patient for the last decade on July 1, 2012 I had to go to his new pain clinic and be finger printed, drug tested, back ground checked, credit check, any police records, etc. all of which I passed but the DEA and my state all of a sudden started treating everyone and anyone who was taking pain meds like criminals. I don't know what happens if you have a record, or cannot pass the credit, background and drug tests, but any doctor will tell you NOT to stop taking any pain meds abruptly, it is dangerous. So I can understand some poor guy in severe pain from an accident or injury all of sudden cut off from his med's and going through withdrawal symptoms buying illegal meds either someone else's pain meds or street drugs to ease their suffering, I don't agree with it but I understand it. The all powerful DEA is making things much worse, my belief is that they want to force everyone into methadone clinics so they can track and control the people, unless we stop them now it is only going to get worse.

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dandmauto1 February 17 2014 at 3:34 PM

Disease myth? It is a fact that addiction is a disease that effects millons in the united states alone. Researchers have done brain scans on addicts and non addicts and found that the brain of an addict is noticeably different than a non addict. That research was done after the addicts were clean. It starts out the same for most addicts, alcohol and its down hill from there. There are those who become addicted by their doctors. The people who unknowingly become addicts can usually get clean and stay clean with some temporary help. The people who have the disease of addiction are a different story. They need treatment for their disease every day to keep it in remission. One beer or one joint for them can be deadly. It sets off a cycle. Game over.

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slackwarerobert February 24 2014 at 2:44 PM

How can you tell from a brain scan AFTER they are clean. You would need one BEFORE they did the drugs and became "addicted" to compare.
brain cells are a one time thing, they don't rejuvenate, regrow, or recover.
Strange how you say it is an addiction, yet the cure is to give them more of the drugs?

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rosemortgage February 17 2014 at 2:53 PM

A highpowered drug like fentanyl should not be that difficult to determine the source. A prescription is necessary and a crackdown like what was done for oxy should be implemented. Who is prescribing massive numbers of prescriptions should be very easy to determine. The cartels run the drug business in the US and they are either manufacturing fentanyl or should not be happy that their product is in the national news.

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David FLynn February 17 2014 at 2:06 PM

Fentanyl is perscibed to a lot of people in pain units 50 and 100 mic,s they are not just given out in the hospitals many people get Fetanyal for back pain

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JC February 17 2014 at 1:58 PM

Now I'm certainly not a physician, but I think I'm safe in saying that if one avoids all heroin that they'll be safe from "killer heroin."

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slackwarerobert February 24 2014 at 2:46 PM

Not if the guy down the street wants your wallet to buy it bad enough.
Just let them grow their poppy seeds and make it themselves. Then they get what they want, and will be to busy in the garden to bother anyone.

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