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“Good” Heroin v. Tainted Heroin Causing Deaths

Posted Oct 23 2008 1:35pm
As I mentioned in my talk the other day, the movie “American Gangster” among other things, shows what happens in an area (Harlem in the 70s) when the quality/purity of heroin improves. It is somewhat easy to miss, but before the consumer base stabilizes there are a number of addicts that die because they aren’t used to the less cut heroin suddenly available on the streets. They continue to use the amount of drug that they were using and it becomes an overdose before they realize it.

Something similar is apparently happening locally, as well as elsewhere in the country. We are seeing what looks like an increase in deaths due to heroin overdose (it is a bit early in the course to call it a trend, but it looks like it). Local law enforcement initially felt the deaths were due to “tainted” heroin, i.e. heroin cut/mixed with something that was causing the deaths in these folks. We have in the past seen fentanyl, a much more lethal drug, mixed in or replacing the heroin, causing similar deaths.

It was the opinion of my office that the deaths were more likely due to purer (“stronger”) heroin. Our toxicology testing has bourn that out. There is really good heroin on our streets.

I also warned the teens the other day that that purity also makes it more tempting to try this very addicting drug. You can snort it instead of using a needle. The numbers of those addicted will take longer to surface, but I suspect that that will grow as well with the increased purity. Teens, in particular, must be educated to not try the drug, their developing brains are even more susceptible to its addictive properties.

“Good” heroin is not a good thing. It contributes to all the problems inherent in the addicted population; physical problems, social problems, problems with the law. It contributes to death. Our tools consist of law enforcement, education and awareness, and treatment. All must be brought to bear on this problem.
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