Police in Amsterdam are warning the public about a potentially deadly batch of heroin circulating in the city that may have contributed to four deaths and nearly a dozen overdoses in the past two months.
Police suspect the heroin may be tainted with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid approved for prescription pain relief that’s believed to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and is used as a cutting agent in heroin.
Amsterdam Police Department Deputy Chief Victor Hugo said authorities know of four deaths in the past month that are linked to heroin use, and that in at least one of those cases fentanyl was found in the body of the deceased.
“Until we get the toxicology back, we’re not going to say 100 percent, but in one of the deaths the medical staff relayed to a significant other that there was fentanyl in the system,” said Hugo, noting that 10 to 12 individuals in the past two months were treated for suspected heroin overdoses and survived. “We’re pretty confident that at least some had something to do with fentanyl or some other substance we’re not aware of yet.”
Police are awaiting the outcome of toxicology reports in the other three cases to confirm their suspicions, but Hugo said the department felt they had enough information to warn the public about a possibly fatal batch of tainted heroin that is on the streets.
Hugo said police in Amsterdam have received information that fentanyl is in heroin that’s being dealt in the area.
“There’s been a lot of information from law enforcement sources that this particular drug is in heroin being distributed in the area — and not just locally, it’s all over the place,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control released a report last year linking fatal fentanyl-related overdoses, which have increased nationwide in recent years, with illicitly manufactured fentanyl that may include fentanyl analogues harmful to humans. The CDC said in the report that illicit, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is often added to heroin to increase the drug’s euphoric effect.
Hugo said this many overdoses and deaths in this short a time is alarming to law enforcement from a public health standpoint, and that authorities believe the potentially deadly heroin is still in circulation.
“We suspect that there’s more of it out there and having that many deaths in a relatively short period of time due to overdoses is highly unusual for us,” said Hugo. “We made it public to hopefully get the information out there so these people that use it maybe have second thoughts about it or maybe get into treatment so they don’t become a victim.”
Hugo said before heroin reaches the end user it can be cut an untold number of times by each entity along the supply chain looking to maximize profits.
He added that he can’t discount the notion that the potentially bad heroin is coming from the same manufacturer or dealer, but that police have no information to that effect as of Wednesday afternoon.
“Some of the guys that are selling it, they may not even know what’s in it,” he said.
Hugo urged anyone with an addiction problem to seek treatment and especially urged those with family members that are addicted to heroin or other drugs to help their loved ones seek help.
“The biggest thing is if someone has an addiction they should try to contact an addiction center,” said Hugo. “Family members can also try to steer them in the right direction so they can try to get help.”
St. Mary’s Hospital offers outpatient counseling services for those facing addiction and can be reached at 518-843-4410. More information about Montgomery County’s resources for addiction can be found on the county’s website (www.co.montgomery.ny.us) under “Addiction Services.”