Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

In the early 1990s, fentanyl-laced heroin under the street name “Tango and Cash” caused hundreds of deaths in the New York area. The deadly mixture has reemerged on the drug scene once again. Since the beginning of 2006, more than 100 deaths in the Philadelphia and Camden, NJ area have been tied to heroin mixed with fentanyl. According to a Sept. 21, 2006, U.S. News and World Report article, more than 500 people nationwide have overdosed on the drug in recent months.

Fentanyl, an opioid painkiller, is mixed in with heroin to either intensify the high for users or to strengthen poor-quality heroin without users’ knowledge. According to the Web site Medical News Today, fentanyl has legitimate use as a painkiller and anesthesia, but is most likely being made in illicit labs for heroin use. Just 125 micrograms, which is the equivalent of a few grains of salt, is enough to be deadly.

Deaths caused by the mixture started in Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit in the beginning of 2006 and has recently spread to New York City. New York authorities reported that fentanyl combined with either heroin and, less frequently, cocaine has killed 17 people in the city since May. According to USA Today, the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued an alert about the fentanyl-laced heroin to rehab centers and addiction specialists on June 8, 2006.

The Trenton Times reported in late September that Mercer County, NJ, authorities have acknowledged that the drug is being sold in the Trenton area. More than 60 deaths due to overdoses were reported in Camden and Gloucester counties. It is believed that the heroin sold in Trenton is responsible for deaths in Philadelphia also. The presence of fentanyl has been found in five heroin overdoses in Bucks County, Pa.

An Aug. 27, 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer article reported that the city changed its policy on giving overdose victims life-saving drugs. The policy change is in compliance with new state guidelines that are expected to be approved Nov. 1. The changes allow Philadelphia paramedics to give more of the overdose antidote Narcan than currently allowed. Paramedics are able to give patients a 0.4 milligram dose of Narcan and if needed, another 0.4 milligram dose. If the patient fails to respond, paramedics must ask permission from a doctor to give more. The changes will allow paramedics to give three more doses at 0.4 milligrams before asking for permission.

The changes allow less Narcan to be given in Philadelphia than in Chicago and Detroit. In Chicago, paramedics are able to give up to 1 milligram of Narcan, followed by 10 milligrams before they must get permission to give more. In Detroit, paramedics are allowed to administer 2 milligrams.

In Detriot, during a two-week period in May, 2006, 52 people died from overdoses of the mixture. On May 19, 12 people died in a 24-hour period. In June, 2006, The Washington Post reported that Detroit authorities suspect that more than 175 people died in recent months from fentanyl-induced overdoses. In February, 2006, Chicago authorities found a dozen people unconscious in one place due to fentanyl-laced heroin overdoses. In April 2006, a dozen overdoses were found again in one place in the city.

U.S. News and World Report reported that authorities believe that Mexico is the source of most of the fentanyl-laced heroin. In May, 2006, Mexican authorities raided a clandestine fentanyl lab in Toluca. The Drug Prevention Network of the Americas reported that five people were arrested in the raid.

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