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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."

Join the discussion

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ajpoolio1 February 17 2014 at 12:02 PM

keep on taking it ,it's good for you. Stupid!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
cabinsmoke February 17 2014 at 10:54 AM

Will there be a recall?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Randy February 17 2014 at 10:54 AM

Here's a simple solution.... don't inject illegal drugs into your system.... don't purchase illegal drugs from someone who pulls them from an inside pocket of their jacket.... and stop coddling those who do!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Happypoolprune February 17 2014 at 10:52 AM

I'm sorry, but why can't I feel compassion for these people? I've been told all the hype about addiction being an illness, etc - but there is help available - and why isn't there as much of an uproar about the drugs as there is about the guns? And if you don't think drugs kill innocents - think again - where do you and how do you think the addict gets his money for his next fix? They say that pot is a gateway drug that can lead to other addictions - and that pot itself is addictive - then why is it legalized for other than medicinal use? Are we to become a nation of mellowed out people who don't give a dang about what's happening? Wake up - smell the coffee - and let's take back our lives from these drug cartels, etc

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
erv3933 Happypoolprune February 17 2014 at 11:06 AM

I agree with most of your post. It's sad that you can't feel compassion for addicts.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
k.gouloff February 17 2014 at 10:51 AM

Saddens me as I have a good friend who just buried her adult daughter from a overdose of heroin

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
wlh1923 k.gouloff February 17 2014 at 10:59 AM

Does the funeral home usually perform that service?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Joy k.gouloff February 17 2014 at 11:01 AM

I have a friend who's son just got out of jail for possession and a niece who's dear friend died from taking tainted heroin. Both of them are devastated by their loved ones actions.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
the902inc February 16 2014 at 9:52 PM

It's odd, that in most of these states they worry more about Cigarettes, than heroin!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
doywoods8 February 16 2014 at 9:53 PM

For those of you that judge an addict, Do you take tylenol, advel, aspiran, drink alcohol, take sleeping aids, use vitamins, couph syrup, etc..... QUIT-- you are contributing to the big PHARMA that produces these drugs, weather it is an ingreediant or not. Now my spelling is mis-spelt because I have the right to freedom of writing the way I chose and has NO part of my education. Just really something for you politically correct sob's to gripe about and belittle me. That again will make you people the more of the judge-mental people that you are. More laws mean less freedom of choice and the making of a one world police state ie..a government takeover.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
lakota6020 February 16 2014 at 9:53 PM

The detectives need to start checking hospitals and their staff, someone is selling the fentanyl, some poor cancer patient is more than likely receiving water down meds.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
shevon lakota6020 February 16 2014 at 10:19 PM

The pharmacists are the culprits

Flag Reply 0 rate up
iluv2glitter lakota6020 February 16 2014 at 10:45 PM

YES! I agree with you, HOW? ARE PEOPLE GETTING THIS MEDICINE? My son died from the drug don't know where or how he got it? he did not use heroin. He never had cancer was not sick or being treated for anything, so how he got the medicine is a mystery????

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
mauisun1776 iluv2glitter February 16 2014 at 11:07 PM

I'm sorry. :(

Flag 0 rate up
nlhredlion February 17 2014 at 10:44 AM

Say no to drugs!!!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Bill nlhredlion February 17 2014 at 10:50 AM

...unless they are advertised on TV

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jeffinalaska2 February 16 2014 at 10:03 PM

The government needs to pass a law so I know whats in my drug!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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