A “potentially lethal” batch of heroin sparked 36 overdoses over a span of 24 hours Thursday in Pennsylvania, shocking officials in the region.
The rash of overdoses occurred in Williamsport, PA, an area hard hit by opioid abuse. Despite their familiarity with the drug epidemic, officials said the situation is “extremely unusual.” UPMC Susquehanna, a hospital in Williamsport, had treated 36 patients for heroin overdoses by Thursday evening, which they fear was sparked by a heroin batch spiked with potent chemicals, reports Penn Live.
“This left me speechless,” Shea Madden, executive director of the West Branch Drug and Alcohol Commission, told Penn Live.
One of the suspected heroin overdoses proved fatal, however, officials are still awaiting the toxicology report to confirm the cause of death. Authorities suspect the heroin is likely cut with fentanyl or another similar synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is a painkiller roughly 30 to 50 times stronger than the average batch of heroin. (RELATED: Deadlier Heroin Is Fighting The Overdose Antidote)
“We believe there is a potentially lethal version of this drug (heroin) in the region,”UPMC Susquehanna said in a statement, according to Penn Live.
Synthetic opioids are largely blamed for fueling the current opioid epidemic, which is expected to kill a record number of Americans this year. 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.
Pennsylvania is suffering from rampant opioid abuse, particularly centered around Philadelphia. Heroin addicts from out of state are actually flocking to Philadelphia because of the reputation of heroin in the city as some of the strongest in the country.
Officials say that the presence of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are causing addicts to purposefully seek it out for abuse.
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