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Lethal Heroin Combination Kills Dozens In Maryland

11:29 AM, Feb 1, 2014   |    comments
Photo: CBS
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Vinita Nair, CBS News

The state of Maryland said Friday that a deadly combination of drugs has killed 37 people since September.

The mixture of heroin and a powerful painkiller has been hitting the streets around the country.

In Western Pennsylvania, 22 overdose deaths were reported in the past two weeks.

Lab technicians in Pittsburgh immediately knew the heroin found on overdose victims was something different. The powder was white, instead of yellow. 

"They found almost exactly the same substance in those stamped bags, a fifty - fifty mixture of heroin with Fentanyl," said Dr. Karl Williams, Allegheny County Medical Examiner. 

He describes Fentanyl as a very powerful narcotic. Allegheny said depending on how you formulate it, it can be 10, 20, 100 times more powerful than morphine. 

Fentanyl offers a higher high than heroin alone. It also carries a higher risk of an overdose. 

CBS News spoke to a Pittsburgh man who took the Fentanyl-laced heroin. The dealer told him to just be careful, which the first time he has heard that warning from the dealer. 

"I go home, lock myself in my bathroom and I do them, and within 20 seconds I was out," said the heroin user.  His mother had to resuscitate him after the overdose. 

Heroin-Fentanyl blends caused nearly 100 deaths over the past year in Rhode Island, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  Other fatalities were reported in Louisiana and New Jersey. 

Dr. Neil Capretto at Gateway Rehab believes that whoever made the drug knew it could kill. 

"They're willing to lose four or five people to a drug overdose death to maybe attract 30 or 40 new customers and that's just the cost of doing business," said Capretto. 

Last night police arrested a man investigators suspect is a local distributor of the blend. It is known on the street as "Theraflu" and "Bud Ice." 

The Pittsburgh man that CBS spoke with believes heroin users will be looking out for this particular drug. 

"Not going to lie, if I find out there was 'good stuff' out there I'd try to find it."

He agrees that people are just chasing a high, even if that kills them.

"You got people thinking they are macho man - nothing can kill them."

A doctor at a rehab center in Pittsburgh told CBS that dealers are willing to lose a handful of old customers to overdose deaths in the hopes of attracting dozens of new customers.   

Dealers view it as the cost of doing business.



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