Police are investigating the “free samples” of heroin handed out in Chicago’s South Side after Saturday sparked a rash of overdoses in the community.
Police have one woman in custody, but believe several individuals were involved in the distribution scheme. Witnesses told police they saw people riding around in cars Saturday morning offering free samples of the drug. Investigators are currently looking for a man last seen driving a 2001 Chevrolet Impala distributing the narcotics from the window, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that no deaths are linked to the heroin, but noted that at least eight people were hospitalized for overdoses from the potent batch.
“It’s not common to see that many overdoses so quickly, so that’s what brought that to our attention,” Johnson said in a press conference Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is working with police in Chicago to investigate the source of the tainted heroin batch. There are no details on what chemicals may have been cut into the heroin.
Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are spreading death throughout the Chicago area. Authorities are specifically concerned about an opioid drug called acrylfentanyl, a fentanyl analog, or synthetic replication of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent opiate used in hospitals to treat severe pain, and is known to be roughly 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin.
The Cook County medical examiner says acrylfentanyl is responsible for at least 44 overdose deaths through April 2017.
Heroin overdose deaths spiked nearly 20 percent between 2014 and 2015 in Illinois and the disturbing trend continues. Fatal overdoses from synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl, climbed by 120 percent over the same period, claiming 278 lives.
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