Officials blame fentanyl-laced heroin for overdose spike

Updated 3/23/2016 1:52 PM

RICHMOND, Ind. -- Local officials believe a synthetic opioid painkiller that's much more potent than heroin has caused of a recent rash of overdose deaths in Wayne County.

Coroner Ron Stevens and Richmond Police Department Sgt. James Mastriano think heroin laced with fentanyl is making the dangerous drug even more deadly.


Seven overdoses and two deaths were reported during just one day late last week, Stevens tells the (Richmond) Palladium-Item ( ). The county's 2016 death toll likely is now in the teens after six heroin-related deaths were confirmed through February, he said.

A total in the teens through March would put the county on pace to more than double last year's average of nearly two heroin-related deaths per month.

From March 14 to 21, Wayne County Emergency Communications received 10 calls specifically for overdoses, according to a records search of emergency calls. But dispatch statistics will be lower than the actual number of overdoses because 911 calls for unknown medical issues or unresponsive persons are later determined to be overdoses.

If an addict uses the same amount of laced heroin as they would've without the fentanyl, they could overdose. Pure heroin also can lead to an overdose.

Stevens said needles have been found at overdose scenes, including some that were still in the user's vein, which can indicate fentanyl's presence because of its rapid onset.

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Some heroin users prefer fentanyl-laced heroin because of its enhanced effect, regardless of the danger, according to Stevens.

He believes most users know what they're using and aren't unknown victims of fentanyl-laced heroin.


Information from: Palladium-Item,

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