Killer batch of white heroin responsible for at least 100 deaths across the country... and rising The killer dope is a 50/50 blend of heroin and fentanyl
It has killed 22 in Pittsburgh the past two weeks, and 37 more in Maryland since September and 22 more in Rhode Island this month
Officials from New Hampshire to Washington are blaming it for spikes in overdose deaths
By Ryan Gorman
PUBLISHED: 22:58 EST, 31 January 2014 | UPDATED: 01:36 EST, 1 February 2014
Heroin overdose deaths across the country are spiking as a deadly new variant of the drug mixed with a powerful painkiller is spreading from New Hampshire to Washington State.
The lethal combination of heroin and fentanyl, an opiate used to soothe the pain of cancer patients, is blamed for about 100 deaths from coast to coast. It is variously labelled as ‘bud ice,’ ‘income tax’ and ‘theraflu,’ authorities say.
The hardest hit states in the epidemic are Maryland, with more than three dozen deaths since September, and Pennsylvania, with almost two dozen this month alone, according to reports.
Bud ice: Named after a now-discontinued beer, the lethal heroin is blamed for dozens of deaths
The killer drug cocktail first gained national notoriety last week when Pittsburgh-area officials said it had killed 22 people since only January 16, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is so concerned about the deaths she announced a task force comprised of state, county and local police departments dedicated solely to eradicating it from Western Pennsylvania.
Though Pennsylvania’s cases have so far been the highest profile, Maryland’s medical examiner says 37 people in the state have died in the last five months from injecting the poisonous potion, CBS DC reported.
FENTANYL AT A GLANCE
First synthesized in Belgium in the 1950s
Brought into medical use in the 1960s
Up to 100 times more potent than morphine
Used mainly for pain management in cancer patients
It is usually taken intravenously, but can be smoked or snorted
Odorless, clear liquid or white crystalline powder
Source: Drug Enforcement Administration
The deaths were spread throughout the whole state, with 10 occurring in drug-ravaged Baltimore.
A further 22 people died of heroin-fentanyl overdoses in Rhode Island during the first two weeks of this year, officials told the Providence Journal.
'People believe that they’re shooting heroin but the substance does not look like heroin and they’re shooting it and they’re dying,' a rehabilitation expert told the paper.
Police in Portsmouth, NH, responded to three overdoses in a single 24-hour period one day last week alone, one of those people died, an official told Portsmouth Patch.
Authorities in Nassau County, a Long Island suburb of New York, say the deadly dope has recently killed at least five people, Newsday reported.
Other deaths linked to fentanyl-laced heroin have also been reported in Louisiana and Washington State.
People are overdosing because the combination of fentanyl and heroin is recent trend, and results in a much more powerful high than users have seen before.
Fentanyl is an opiate up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, Dr Karl Williams, the Allegheny County (PA) Medical Examiner told CBS News.
The people who died from overdose were all discovered to have taken the lethal combination.
‘They found almost exactly the same substance in those stamped bags, a fifty – fifty mixture of heroin with Fentanyl,’ he said, adding the opiate provides a higher high than heroin by itself.
Deadly: Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, and is being blamed for the rash of recent deaths
A Pittsburgh addict who declined to be identified told CBS News of his close brush with death after taking ‘bud ice.’
His dealer told him to ‘be careful,’ which he said is the first time he’d ever been warned.
‘I go home, lock myself in my bathroom and I do [the drugs], and within 20 seconds I was out,’ he recalled, saying his mother broke down the door to revive him.
Maryland’s chief medical examiner told CBS Baltimore the heroin variant kills people by shutting down their respiratory system.
‘Both substances slow down your breathing and can eventually slow it down to the point of death.'
Officials in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Washington State have also blamed the drug for overdoses in their regions, according to CBS.
Fentanyl-heroin combinations have reared their ugly heads in the past, most notably during the spring of 2006 in Chicago and Detroit – almost 300 people died from February to June while using the drug between the two cities, according to the Washington Post.
Not like normal heroin: The killer heroin has a white color (pictured), far from the yellow tinted heroin most often found on the street
Authorities say that the easiest way to spot the more lethal heroin cocktail is because it is white. Heroin usually has a yellow tint to it.
Even more scary, one expert told CBS News, is that dope slingers appear willing to let the drug kill some addicts because it will attract more business from junkies chasing a more potent high.
‘They're willing to lose four or five people to a drug overdose death to maybe attract 30 or 40 new customers and that's just the cost of doing business,’ said Dr. Neil Capretto of Gateway Rehab.
Sobering reality: The arrest of Tywon Newby (left) took a significant amount of the tainted dope of the streets, but also showed investigators dealers may have already started re-branding it to evade targeted enforcement
Pennsylvania authorities may have finally started making progress in their fight against the deadly blend. A slate of arrests has been announced over the past 24 hours of people charged with distribution.
Tywon Newby, 39, of Clairton, was found with 2,000 bags of heroin, 48 more bricks of heroin, and more than $8,500 in cash, authorities said.
Other arrests resulted in the seizure of thousands more bags of the lethal mixture, the Pittsburgh Tribune reported.
The arrest of Mr Newby also brought forth a sobering discovery, he had begun labeling the heroin-fentanyl blend ‘sky high.’