Deadlier Heroin Is Fighting The Overdose Antidote

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Potent heroin batches cut with new forms of the synthetic opioid fentanyl are proving resistant to the overdose reversal drug Narcan, according to a warning from police in Georgia.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) issued a warning Tuesday that first responders are increasingly finding overdose victims who do not respond to an injection of Narcan. Even multiple injections of the overdose reversal drug are not enough to revive people overdosing on the potent substance called acrylfentanyl, reports WTOL.

The substance is responsible for at least 44 overdose deaths through April 2017 in Cook County, IL, and now appears to be spreading into other states.

“It’s a very serious situation and it’s very dangerous,” Nelly Miles, an official with the GBI, said Tuesday, according to WTOL. “There are multiple reports that this drug is resistant to naloxone.”

Acrylfentanyl is a fentanyl analog, or synthetic replication of fentanyl, and primarily comes into the country from China. In addition to Chicago and Georgia, the substance has cropped up in Pittsburgh and Rochester, NY.

Fentanyl is a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine that is regularly cut into heroin supplies. Carfentanil, an analog of fentanyl sometimes cut into drug supplies, is roughly 10,000 times stronger than morphine and used for tranquilizing elephants.

Synthetic opioids are largely blamed for fueling the current opioid epidemic. 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 as little as $2,000. It can also be used to create roughly 20 times more doses than heroin, providing dealers with huge profits.

“These high-potency opioids and opioid analogs are thousands of times stronger than street opioids like heroin and are far more likely to cause death,” Dr. Steve Aks, director of toxicology at Stroger Hospital, told the Chicago Tribune in May.

Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death for Americans under 50. The New York Times recently culled through data from state health departments and county medical examiners and coroners, predicting there were between 59,000 and 65,000 drug deaths in 2016.

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