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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 21:20 EDT

Heroin-Fentanyl Mix Blamed For 22 Pittsburgh-Area Deaths

January 29, 2014
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Fentanyl, a powerful narcotic used by cancer patients as a pain reliever, is being blamed for nearly two-dozen heroin-related deaths in Pennsylvania in recent days, state officials told various media outlets on Tuesday.

According to Lorenzo Ferrigno and Kevin Conlon of CNN, Allegheny County chief medical examiner Dr. Karl Williams confirmed that 15 of the deaths occurred in the past week, involving both men and women between the ages of 22 and 53. All of the victims appeared to have been heroin users who had inadvertently used a mix of that drug and fentanyl.

Dr. Williams, who told ABC News that he typically only sees one or two suspected cases like this each day, said that the recent trends indicate a “major increase in drug overdoses.” He also said that since the fentanyl is being seen in powder form, that it “has to be made by somebody… somewhere in a clandestine laboratory.”

“This is not accidental,” he reiterated in separate comments made to Ferrigno and Conlon. “Somebody is deliberately trying to make a big batch of fentanyl. It is not an extraordinarily complex molecule to synthesize, and you can find instructions on the Internet. It does not take a sophisticated chemist to do this.”

Those victims are among 22 Pennsylvania residents from six counties who died after using the dangerous combination of drugs, which were placed in small bags and marked with the words Theraflu, Bud Ice and Income Tax, according to New York Times reporter Emma G. Fitzsimmons.

Fentanyl is a painkiller similar in nature to morphine, but more potent, Fitzsimmons said. If the substance is mixed with drugs such as cocaine or heroin, it amplifies their strength, and can result in nausea, sedation and respiratory problems. In addition to Allegheny County, the stamped bags were found in Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Westmoreland Counties in western Pennsylvania, and there are fears they could be spreading state-wide.

In a statement, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said that her office would be “working with the Allegheny County Police Department, the Pittsburgh Police, and their counterparts in the region to get this deadly mix of heroin off the streets of Western Pennsylvania.” Furthermore, she said they would be actively looking “to arrest and prosecute anyone caught selling, distributing, and producing these drugs.”

“Those who are in possession of this potent formula are in danger of losing their lives,” Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto warned on Saturday, following four additional overdoses, including one fatality in the city. “It will kill you. The danger cannot be overstated.”


Source: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online