The Painkiller Behind Surging Heroin Deaths Now Found In Cocaine

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A potent and often deadly painkiller blamed for the massive surge in heroin related deaths in the U.S. since 2010 is now being cut into cocaine.

Officials from the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare are warning the public and health care workers that fentanyl, an opiate based painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is being found in cocaine supplies throughout the state Monday. The development is alarming for law enforcement in the region, who note that unlike heroin, cocaine is more widely used as a social drug, reports Providence Journal.

They fear users are largely unaware of fentanyl being cut up with cocaine and say it will have deadly consequences. Fentanyl is now the second most common drug detected in seized samples in Rhode Island. Of the samples recently tested that contained traces of fentanyl, 48 were heroin while 37 were cocaine.

Less than half a teaspoon of pure fentanyl is enough to kill 10 people.

“There’s no such thing as clean cocaine or heroin anymore,” Linda Mahoney, an administrator at the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, told Providence Journal. “That’s the message that should be sent to social users as well as anyone (for whom) that’s their drug of choice.”

Fentanyl is infiltrating drug supplies across the country because of how cheap the substance is compared to standard narcotics. While a kilogram of heroin from a Mexican cartel will cost a domestic supplier roughly $64,000, they can order a kilogram of fentanyl through the mail from China for only $2,000.

In Rhode Island, roughly 60 percent of accidental drug overdoses in 2016 are tied to fentanyl. Medical professionals say fentanyl is one of the primary drivers of the current opioid epidemic gripping the country.

Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years across the U.S., according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

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