-- First responders were reeling in Cincinnati after a mid-week spate of more than 50 heroin overdoses from Tuesday morning to Wednesday night.
Even in the midst of a drug epidemic that has made opioid overdoses an increasingly common feature in towns and cities across the nation, the wave of emergencies reported in Cincinnati took police, emergency responders and medical professionals by surprise, WCPO, a local ABC affiliate reported on Wednesday night.
The 911 calls came from all over the city, WCPO reported, including one from the bathroom of an ice cream parlor, another from a McDonald’s, and yet another from the scene of a car crash caused by a man who had overdosed while driving.
Several of the overdose victims had to be revived, but one was not so lucky, turning the scene outside a local restaurant grim as authorities carried away the individual in a body bag.
“I am very disturbed about it,” area resident Richard Henson told WCPO. “It really saddens my heart.”
Police suspect a batch of heroin mixed with fentanyl, carfentanil or even rat poison may be to blame for the wave of overdoses.
Each of these ingredients is known to produce a greater high and a greater risk of overdose and death than pure heroin, said WCPO.
The deadly drug cocktails have even proven resistant to treatments like Narcan that have reduced overdose death rates. In at least one of the Cincinnati overdoses, the victim had to be given two doses of Narcan.
"I've got to say to whoever pushed this out on the street, this was the wrong thing to do," Newtown police Chief Tom Synan, head of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, told WCPO.
“You now have the full and undivided attention of the Hamilton County Coalition Task Force, which includes local, state and federal agencies, and I can tell you we'll all be working with the Cincinnati Police Department to see who pushed this out on the street."
Police suspect the involvement of multiple street-level dealers in the extremely dangerous batch, with at least one giving it away for free, said Capt. Aaron Jones of the Cincinnati Police Department.
"Of the victims (Tuesday) that would talk to us and were honest in telling us where they received this heroin from, it’s from several different people ... from several different areas," Jones told WCPO. "Some of those were given almost as what we call testers -- 'Try this out and if you like it, you can get a hold of me.'"
Cincinnati is not the only area dealing with a sudden surge in overdose rates. A West Virginia town saw 27 heroin overdoses within 4 hours a week ago.
More than 47,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2014, with opioids like heroin and fentanyl accounting for nearly 60 percent of that total.
The number of heroin users in the United States reached one million in 2014, a 20-year high, while heroin-related deaths have increased five-fold since 2000, according to a United Nations study published in June.