Some updates on fentanyl laced heroin in advance of the big DEA/Chicago Police seminar next Thursday, June 13.
First, the drug has reached Pittsburgh, causing 35 overdoses and three deaths in that city. The police are "working overtime to scoop up drug dealers and lean on users for information...." A Pittsburgh drug counselor is quoted offering advice that seems to appear whenever these deaths are reported:
The deaths of three heroin users and the emergency treatment of 35 more have prompted an overdose prevention expert to offer this advice: If you're going to use, have someone nearby in case you need help.
As mentioned here, some investigators have speculated that the fentanyl causing these problems was produced by an illegal lab in Mexico. Today in Chicago, drug czar John Walters announced that just such an illegal lab had been shut down:
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City reported the lab was located May 21 by Mexican authorities in Toluca, north of the capital. The Mexican attorney general's office reported authorities found a climate-controlled room in the company's space in an industrial park, with tools and precursor chemicals used in the making of the drug.
It is slightly disconcerting that the lab was identified on May 21 but no announcement of any arrests was made until today. It may be that it was necessary to delay either the arrests or the announcement, or both, for reasons important to the prosecution of those who ran the lab. It is also possible that the fentanyl laced heroin story is reaching a boiling point, and that an announcement of some action, however insignificant, was deemed necessary. The article does not say how big the lab was, how long it was in operation, or how much fentanyl produced by this lab reached the American drug market. The article reports only that such issues were under investigation. Further, the article tells us that DEA chemists have still not identified a chemical signature for the drug that would indicate whether the fentanyl that has been causing the overdoses is from the same producer, whether at the lab raided in Mexico or some other lab. It is possible this announcement means very little in terms of stemming the damage caused by illegal fentanyl.
Meanwhile, deaths are still being reported in Chicago, with 13 fatal overdoses reported over the weekend:
Among those suspected of overdosing over the weekend was Herman Elmore, 31, who died at the home of a family he was staying with in the 7400 block of South Morgan Street.
Vicky Love, who described herself as Elmore's godmother, said he was in and out of the house early Sunday, and then came in and said he was sleepy at about 3 p.m.
"I told him to sit down and take a nap," Love said. Several hours later children in the house tried to wake Elmore from a chair, but he was not breathing.
A similarly distressing story is reported from Indianapolis [$]:
What began as a family dinner at Anna Layton's Shelbyville home turned into a drug party with deadly results. Layton, 48, and her son, Christopher, 28, died at the party in March 2005 within hours of injecting and then chewing fentanyl -- a prescription painkiller 100 times more powerful than morphine -- from a pain patch Anna received for her ailing shoulder, autopsy reports show.
Finally, from an anti-drug website associated with the NCAA, we learn that street names for fentanyl-laced heroin are "Tango," "Cash," and "Goodfellas." Who knew.