Feds Probe Deadly Laced Heroin Overdoses
The Associated Press,
May 24, 2006
CHICAGO - Federal drug agents and the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention are stepping up the
investigation of dozens of fatal overdoses linked to
heroin laced with a strong prescription painkiller.
synthetic painkiller fentanyl has tainted the
illegal heroin supply in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio,
Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey,
authorities said. In Detroit, the drug combination
has been linked to at least 23 deaths in less than a
week, officials said Tuesday.
Chicago two weeks ago, 15 people were hospitalized
after using heroin bought on the city's West Side.
All of the overdoses happened within a one-mile
radius, authorities said. In all, dozens of people
have overdosed in Chicago this year - including 10
who have died.
officials are trying to figure out if a single
source can be blamed, they say the fentanyl likely
came from multiple sources.
"Samples are being tested to see if we can determine
if it's pharmaceutical grade or from a clandestine
laboratory," DEA agent Christopher Hoyt said.
request of Michigan health officials, two
investigators from the CDC were sent to Detroit
last week to look into more than 100
fentanyl-related deaths there since last fall,
said CDC spokeswoman Bernadette Burden. She said
it is the first time the agency has been called in
to investigate fentanyl use.
least 23 people have died in Wayne County,
Detroit's home county, since Thursday in the
latest string of deaths related to fentanyl, said
Vanessa Denha-Garmo, a spokeswoman for County
Executive Robert Ficano.
southern New Jersey and the Philadelphia area last
month, authorities said at least nine heroin users
had died. Tests done in one community showed that
what was sold as heroin was actually mostly
fentanyl, with no heroin mixed in, they said.
Fentanyl is used to treat chronic pain and as
anesthesia for open-heart surgery. The pain
medication is 80 times stronger than morphine.
Medical experts say fentanyl can cause breathing
problems and make users feel as if they are