Tainted heroin suspected of killing 7 in New York state in one day
Officials are warning heroin users to throw out the drug.
By GILLIAN MOHNEY
March 31, 2017, 6:32 PM
• 4 min read
-- A batch of tainted heroin or other opioid that may still be getting sold on the street is suspected in the deaths of six men and one woman in a single day in a western New York county.
The county executive of Erie County, New York, and local health officials warned at a news conference that the unusually high number of apparent overdoses in a period of just over 24 hours from Wednesday to Thursday may be tied to an illicit substance.
"We know something is on the street that is killing people at a much higher rate that you would normally see," County Executive Mark Poloncarz told reporters at the news conference Thursday. Using the substance "could be a death sentence."
Poloncarz said Erie County, which encompasses the city of Buffalo, usually sees approximately seven fatal overdoses in a week. But on xxx that many people -- the six men and one women who had an average age of 32 -- died of suspected overdoses, the county health department said.
The county health department is urging heroin users to throw out any of the drug they have in case it is tainted with fentanyl or another substance that could make it deadly.
Fentanyl is an opioid like heroin but can be 50 to 100 times more potent, so even a small amount mixed in with heroin can result in a deadly overdose, the health department said. Fentanyl-tainted heroin could be so strong that even an opioid antidote, Narcan, could be ineffective in counteracting an overdose, the department said.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he will consider murder charges against anyone caught dealing a tainted drug that resulted in a death.
"If I can prove it, I will charge a drug dealer with murder," Erie county attorney John Flynn said at the press conference.
Poloncarz and other officials urged that anyone dealing with opioid addiction reach out for help by calling a drug hotlines to get help. They also pointed out that anyone can purchase Narcan, which is sold over the counter.
"Opioid/heroin addicts and their families should be aware that help is available. Narcan is available over the counter and you can call our 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotline at 716-831-7007 to get help," Poloncarz wrote on Facebook.