Police are issuing a warning over a potent strain of heroin mixed with deadly synthetic opioids that has killed six people over the past week in Northern Virginia.
Authorities in Fairfax County say the community has never seen an illicit opioid mixture this potent, calling the bad batch of heroin a threat to the “general public.” Officials say the heroin appears to be cut with both fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, and carfentanil, a fentanyl analog roughly 10,000 times more powerful than morphine used largely as an elephant tranquilizer, reports Inside Nova.
The Chris Atwood Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about addiction, is giving out free kits of the overdose reversal drug Narcan in Reston, Va., Friday evening to help residents guard against the threat. Fentanyl and carfentanil can be deadly to bystanders who accidentally breathe it in if the substance goes airborne.
“In my 20 years in narcotics, I have never seen anything like this,” said Second Lt. James Cox of the Organized Crime and Narcotics Division, according to Inside Nova. “Before this week, the highest number of opioid overdoses we had in a weekend was five, and fortunately, everyone lived.”
Fentanyl overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. in 2016. Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and its analogs, claimed roughly 20,100 lives in 2016, up from 9,945.
The Drug Enforcement Administration issued new guidance to police departments across the country in June on how to handle heroin and other narcotics due to the increasing prevalence of fentanyl. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein warned it only takes two milligrams of fentanyl, “the equivalent of a few grains of table salt,” to cause a fatal overdose.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50.
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