As if heroin was not dangerous enough, drug dealers in the US increasingly are lacing the drug with a potent painkiller that has led to a rash of deaths related to the cocktail.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency has discovered many instances of heroin spiked with fentanyl, a painkiller that can be up to 50-times more powerful than heroin and is often prescribed to those suffering from chronic illness, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Adding fentanyl allows drug dealers to claim their heroin is more potent, but it has also caused an increase in overdoses for people who think they are ingesting heroin alone.
In 2014, law enforcement agencies across the US found 3,344 heroin batches containing fentanyl, up more than 300 per cent over those discovered in 2013. Not all fentanyl use is illicit, however. Some 6.6 million prescriptions for the drug were written in 2014, according to the Journal.
But when the painkiller is added to heroin, results can be lethal. That mixture killed 17 people alone in Pennsylvania earlier this year. Maryland saw its number of heroin deaths double in 2014 and authorities have attributed that increase to laced product.
Heroin deaths in the US doubled between 2010 and 2012, according to a study done by the Centres for Disease Control. That data does not prove that the spiked heroin is to blame, but authorities believe it may have played a factor.
The increase in deaths related to fentanyl prompted the DEA on Wednesday rto release the following statement.
“Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart in a press release. “Often laced in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.”
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