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People Are Overdosing on ‘Game of Thrones’ Heroin

From TIME:

A dangerous strain of heroin with a “Game of Thrones” label has been circulating in Vermont and New Hampshire, where officials have counted nearly a dozen recent overdoses.

Vermont’s Department of Health said the strain of heroin is possibly laced with fentanyl, which makes the drug 50 times stronger. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It’s usually used to treat severe pain.

The heroin bags being passed around bear the logo of the hit HBO show, which may be bolstering its popularity on the streets.

It was also involved in a 32-year-old man’s overdose in New Hampshire.

Posted: 8/16/2016 2:18:00 PM

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Another Powerful Painkiller Found in Prince's System: U-47700

From Eyewitness News 5 (Minneapolis/St. Paul):

Although it was a fentanyl overdose that killed Prince April 21, the medical examiner said it was part of a deadly chemical cocktail.

A source close to the investigation says U47700 was part of the mixture.  The potent painkiller is a synthetic opioid, eight times stronger than morphine.

Investigative sources told reporter Beth McDonough that Prince may have thought he was taking a legitimate painkiller, like hydrocodone or fentanyl, that unknowingly also had U-47700 in it.

The pills often look just like other medications.  Plus, U47700 can be resistent to the life-saving antidote Narcan. 

Because U-47700 is not considered a controlled substance by state or federal agents, it's not regulated.  The Drug Enforcement Administrations says it tends to be produced overseas in China or Eastern Europe.  It's widely available, easily accessible and affordable, about $40 online. 

A drug ovedose epidemic is hitting Northeast Florida

From The Florida Times-Union (jacksonville.com):

An epidemic of opioid use has been escalating in recent years, but a potent new painkiller has made a deadly appearance on the streets.

The culprit — fentanyl — is a synthetic pain-relieving drug 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine.

It can be a lethal killer when laced with its weaker cousin, heroin, or even sold undiluted as heroin itself.

A resurgence in heroin use means Jacksonville’s streets have become a killing field for fentanyl.

It is taking lives in escalating rates from California to Florida. Statistics weren’t even collected on fentanyl deaths as recently at 2014 in this state; but since then its use and its victims have skyrocketed.

“I signed out three (fentanyl-caused death) cases today,” Matthew McMullin, the toxicologist for NMS Labs, which conducts all the toxicological studies for the local medical examiner, said earlier this week.

Two of the bodies were originally suspected to be heroin overdoses but turned out to be fentanyl.

The other person had died due to an overdose caused by fentanyl patches usually used for pain relief. Four patches were on the body when usually one is enough to relieve pain.

Posted: 5/12/2016 12:02:00 PM

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Heroin overdoses will now be considered homicides, coroner says

From PennLive:

Drug deaths in Lycoming County attributed to an overdose of heroin now are ruled homicides.

Coroner Charles E. Kiessling said Wednesday it is time to stop dancing around the issue and "call it what it is."

He now lists homicide as the manner of death on death certificates in cases where heroin has been determined to be the cause.

"If you are selling heroin to someone and they die, isn't that homicide?" he asked.

Calling it accidental down plays the severity of the situation, he said, noting there were approximately two dozen drug overdose deaths in the county last year.

The National Association of Medical Examiners says coroners have the discretion to call overdose deaths homicide or accidental, she said. They meet the definition of death at the hands of another, she said.

Posted: 3/28/2016 9:17:00 AM

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Heroin Epidemic Is Yielding to a Deadlier Cousin: Fentanyl

From The New York Times:

Fentanyl, which looks like heroin, is a powerful synthetic painkiller that has been laced into heroin but is increasingly being sold by itself — often without the user’s knowledge. It is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine. A tiny bit can be fatal.

In some areas in New England, fentanyl is now killing more people than heroin. In New Hampshire, fentanyl alone killed 158 people last year; heroin killed 32. (Fentanyl was a factor in an additional 120 deaths; heroin contributed to an additional 56.)

Fentanyl represents the latest wave of a rolling drug epidemic that has been fueled by prescription painkillers, as addicts continue to seek higher highs and cheaper fixes.

Nationally, the total number of fentanyl drug seizures reported in 2014 by forensic laboratories jumped to 4,585, from 618 in 2012. More than 80 percent of the seizures in 2014 were concentrated in 10 states: Ohio, followed by Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire and Indiana.

It was only last March that the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert about fentanyl, saying that overdoses were “occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety.”

Its chief characteristic is that it is fast acting.

Joanne Peterson, executive director of Learn to Cope, a statewide support network for families involved with addiction, said fentanyl works so quickly that there is often little time to administer naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose.

“At least with heroin, there is a chance that if someone relapses, they can get back into recovery,” she said. But with fentanyl, she said, it is only a matter of moments before an addict can be dead.

Posted: 3/28/2016 9:05:00 AM

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Legal Loophole Closed on Potent Designer Drug

From Courthouse News Service:

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a final order Friday placing an extremely potent street drug on the schedule of controlled substances after dozens of deaths.

Acetyl fentanyl, which the agency says is 15.7 times more potent than morphine and up to five times more powerful than heroin, is particularly dangerous because the range between the effective dose and the lethal dose is narrow.

The Center of Disease Control issued an alert on acetyl fentanyl in June 2013, after 14 deaths in Rhode Island were attributed to the drug over a three month period.

A total of 39 known deaths have been reported in Rhode Island, North Carolina, California, Louisiana, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

But the Drug Enforcement Administration says it is likely that emergency room admissions and deaths due to this drug are under-reported because "standard immunoassays cannot differentiate acetyl fentanyl from fentanyl."

Other "clandestinely produced fentanyl-like substances, commonly known as designer drugs" have surfaced since the late 1970s and 1980s and been placed on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act, the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

Due to the "imminent hazard to public safety," today's action by the DEA temporarily places the drug on Schedule 1 under the CSA, and it is effective immediately for up to two years, with a possible extension of one additional year, pending completion of the permanent scheduling process.

Posted: 7/20/2015 11:50:00 AM

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NMS Labs Recognizes an Increase in Heroin and Fentanyl use

From:

In recent years there has been a sharp rise in heroin use and heroin overdoses. According to recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a rise in heroin abuse in the United States has been associated with an increase in fatal overdoses. Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued an alert about an increase in deaths related to the use of heroin laced with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that is reported to be up to 100 times more potent than morphine, an active ingredient in heroin. Law enforcement from across the country have started to notice that some of the heroin they’ve seized has been laced with the painkiller, fentanyl. Heroin laced with fentanyl is a deadly mixture, especially since most users are unaware that the heroin has been tainted.

This is a significant public health concern. Many users unknowingly inject this potent drug combination and overdose as a result. For those lucky enough to make it to the hospital, treatment may come too little too late. Since most hospitals don’t screen for fentanyl, medical staff may believe that they are only treating a heroin overdose which is usually easier to reverse. More attention needs to be brought to the issue of fentanyl-laced heroin before it becomes a greater epidemic. Additionally, there is evidence that in some cases the heroin being sold is pure fentanyl without any heroin.

In reviewing our results for drug trends, we have found fentanyl to be more prevalent than ever before.

“After seeing the trend of increasing fentanyl use, we knew the best thing to do was to include fentanyl detection to all of our postmortem panels,” Said Dr. Barry Logan, Chief of Forensic Toxicology at NMS Labs.

In just 90 days we saw 88 cases positive for both fentanyl and 6-acetylmorphine (a unique metabolite of heroin) from across the country. You can view a chart of our findings along with a full report here.

DEA Further Restricts Hydrocodone Combination Products

From: Medscape

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) voted today (Aug 21) to move forward with rescheduling hydrocodone combination products (HCPs) from schedule III to schedule II drugs. Schedule II medications are considered to be the most potentially harmful and open to abuse.

In addition to containing hydrocodone, HCPs also contain nonnarcotic substances such as aspirin or acetaminophen. Although hydrocodone by itself is classified as a schedule II drug, HCPs have been in the schedule III classification ever since the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was first passed by Congress back in 1971.

"Based on the consideration of all comments, the scientific and medical evaluation and accompanying recommendation of the HHS,...the DEA finds that these facts and all other relevant data constitute evidence of potential for abuse of HCPs," write the DEA in their final rule.

"As such, the DEA is rescheduling HCPs as a schedule II controlled substance under the CSA," they add.

Substantial Feedback

HCPs are currently approved for marketing for the treatment of pain and for cough suppression.

The DEA published its formal proposal in February and asked for feedback, which could be given until April 28. The organization received 573 comments, of which 52% supported the recommended rescheduling, 41% opposed, and 7% did not voice a definitive opinion.

Patrick Morrisey, the attorney general from West Virginia, the state with the highest per capita rate of prescription drug overdoses in 2013, was among those who wrote in support of the rescheduling.

"This reclassification is not only justified given the high abuse and addiction potential of hydrocodone prescription painkillers, it is necessary to combat the drug abuse epidemic that is destroying so many...communities," wrote Morrisey.

"Rescheduling hydrocodone is one way to help prevent this drug from falling into the wrong hands and will ensure that these drugs are handled with the same precautions as other pain medications, such as oxycodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl," he added in a release.

Also falling under the schedule II classification are illegal substances, such as methamphetamine and heroin, and prescribed medications, such as dextroamphetamine sulphate (Adderal, Teva Pharmaceuticals).

Once the final rule goes into effect, anybody who handles HCPs will be subject to the CSA's schedule II regulatory controls. This will include "administrative, civil, and criminal sanctions applicable to the manufacture, distribution, dispensing, importing, exporting, engaging in research, conducting instructional activities, and conducting chemical analysis" of these substances.

In addition, any individual who handles or desires to hand HCPs will need to register with the DEA.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on August 22, 2014.

 

Possible tainted 'Bad News' heroin in Bucks County, PA

From the Bucks County Courier Times:

A tainted batch of heroin has been linked to six overdoses, one deadly, in Bucks County in the past week, state police said in a document obtained by The Intelligencer on Tuesday.

Five overdoses involved heroin brand-stamped “Bad News” and at least one overdose has been preliminarily linked to heroin laced with the prescription painkiller fentanyl, state police said.

Fentanyl is an odorless, undetectable synthetic drug with a potency 80 to 100 times stronger than heroin, said Ellen Unterwald, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the Temple University School of Medicine. When combined with fentanyl, heroin can be 100 times more powerful, she said.

“That’s where the problem comes in. The user doesn’t know how much they’re taking. They’re playing Russian roulette,” she said.

A spokeswoman from the state police Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center said an information alert was released for “public safety reasons” to emergency service and medical personnel. She offered no further comment, and neither confirmed nor denied the overdose reports mentioned in the document.

Posted: 3/5/2014 3:36:00 PM

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Painkiller-spiked heroin kills at least 17 in Pittsburgh region

From the New York Daily News:

Tainted heroin killed as many as 17 people in the region in the past seven days, including five suspected overdoses since Friday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Authorities say the killer dope is spiked with the powerful narcotic, fentanyl, and is being sold in baggies stamped with the word "Theraflu."

Allegheny County medical examiner Karl Williams said his office typically sees 250 fatal overdoes at year.

At this rate, the county was looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 deaths for 2014.

The rash of deaths brought to mind an epidemic of deadly “China White” heroin in the late 80s that killed nearly 20 and led to dozens more overdoses.

“China White” also contained fentanyl.

Posted: 1/27/2014 12:35:00 PM

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