State warns of heroin laced with deadly opioid

 

DOVER — Following six deaths from suspected overdoses in a four-day period, the Department of Health and Social Services is warning drug users their heroin could be laced with the deadly opioid fentanyl.

“Because of I-95, we know it’s easy for heroin and other illicit drugs to flow to Delaware from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states,” DHSS Secretary Kara Odom Walker said in a statement.

“If you are in active use, we urge you to seek treatment immediately. If you continue to use substances, have the overdose-reversing medication naloxone with you because the risk for death is increased. Our first priority is to reduce harm and save lives.”

As of Monday, there have been 71 suspected overdose deaths in Delaware this year, including six from Friday through Monday.

Police in Camden County, N.J., recently reported four people died from using heroin laced with the synthetic painkiller fentanyl Friday. At least eight more overdosed.

Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin.

DHSS urges individuals battling addiction to see a medical provider immediately or call the department’s 24/7 Crisis Services Hotline to be connected to trained crisis professionals who can discuss treatment options. In New Castle County, the number is 1-800-652-2929. In Kent and Sussex counties, it is 1-800-345-6785.

Information is also available at website,www.HelpIsHereDE.com.

If you witness someone who appears to be overdosing, call 911. Under Delaware’s Good Samaritan Law, both an individual who calls 911 to report an overdose and the person in medical distress cannot be arrested for low-level drug crimes.

In some cases, naloxone can be used to reverse the effects of overdoses and save lives. According to DHSS, Delaware paramedics and police officers administered naloxone 2,714 times in 2017.

Of the 71 fatal overdoses in Delaware this year, 50 have been in New Castle, while 15 occurred in Sussex and six happened in Kent. The individuals involved ranged in age from 19 to 74.

2017 saw 345 people in Delaware die from overdoses, an increase of 37 from the year before. The state is on pace to have 262 fatal overdoses this year, although that projection can change day-to-day: Delaware was on pace for 250 overdoses before the most recent spate.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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