Overdoses Up, Officials Warn of Possible “Bad Batch” of Heroin
Across the country, officials have reported an uptick in heroin use in the past few years. Blamed in part on addicts who start out with powerful prescription opiates, the drug that boomed in the 1970s is back with a vengeance, and some say it’s stronger than ever.
In Massachusetts, law enforcement and emergency rooms alike have noticed more overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal, in recent weeks, according to the Boston Globe. It could be a sign of what’s known as a “bad batch”, where users are all dipping into the same dangerous supply, said a representative of the state police.
Three people in Taunton have died in the past few weeks. Other areas including Salisbury and Attleboro are also experiencing more calls for help. The state can’t provide a number just yet but in talking with law enforcement and health facilities, there is definitely an uptick.
“It’s become a public health epidemic,’’ said Attleboro police Chief Kyle Heagney. “We’re experiencing all these deaths.”
It’s not uncommon for police officials and the media to dramatize a few cases into an “epidemic”, and while that word is likely much to be strong to be used under these circumstances, there has been a change for the worse.
Heagney said that opposed to the one or two overdose calls they used to get each month, they’ve been fielding about one per day for the past two weeks. As such, his department issued a warning to residents that there is some bad product on the streets.
The deaths could be blamed on a very pure form of heroin, users combining heroin with something else, or the product being “cut” or mixed with something dangerous in order to make the dealers more money.
Detective Sergeant Matthew Skwarto of the Taunton Police Department says it’s gotten “out of control.” He tested samples from two are overdoses and found they didn’t even contain heroin, but had Fentanyl instead, something that’s up to 100 times stronger than heroin.
The increase in heroin use overall began several years ago with the wave of prescription drug abuse. Prescription opiate addiction is difficult to maintain as the drugs are so expensive. Heroin offers a much cheaper (and stronger) high to those who can’t kick the habit.
Western Mass cities of Holyoke and Springfield are becoming known as the go-to places for cheap heroin. The Connecticut river valley Interstate 91 corridor from Vermont to Connecticut is suddenly a heroin trafficking route. So much so that the Governor or Vermont recently devoted his entire “State of the State” address to the heroin problem. While possession arrests for heroin are an increasing law enforcement priority, it is far more of a public health crisis then simply a criminal justice problem.
While not ones to stoke the fire of media hysteria when it isn’t warranted, stronger heroin or a “bad batch” could put users and addicts at risk of overdose or at a greater risk of arrest for drug possession as police become more vigilant around those they suspect of heroin use. The bottom line: be careful and do what you can to kick the habit before it causes irreparable harm.