Over the past few months, a dangerous combination of Fentanyl-laced heroin has led to at least nine deaths or hospitalizations in New Jersey, and the trend seems to be increasing. Fentanyl is a synthetic form of morphine used by doctors to treat seriously ill patients. When combined with heroin, its potency rises and heroin users experience an even more intense high.
Fentanyl is colorless and odorless, and just like with many street drugs, users never really know what they are getting when they buy it, as it’s often cut with unknown substances. In addition to addiction, Fentanyl-laced heroin can lead to respiratory problems, seizures, irregular heartbeat, coma, and death.
A very, very dangerous combination
The last major outbreak of fentanyl-heroin was in 2005, but it’s now making a comeback. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl overdoses resulted in 1,000 deaths nationwide from April 2005 to March 2007, including 86 in New Jersey. More recently, fentanyl-laced heroin was linked to 22 deaths in western Pennsylvania in January of this year and 37 deaths in Maryland since September.
Many individuals are turning to fentanyl-laced heroin to feel a more intense high. Over time, the heroin itself loses its effectiveness and users require larger amounts of the drug, or new drug combinations, to experience the same high.
Carl Kotowski of the New Jersey Drug Enforcement Administration described in an interview the conflicted thoughts experienced when users decide to mix heroin and fentanyl. “It does improve the high, and that’s the sick thing about being a heroin addict,” he said. “Word gets around on the street that this particular batch of heroin is making people overdose and die, but that addict, even though he or she has that information, will think that’s the good stuff. They’ll be drawn to that, even knowing, ‘Hey, that could kill me.’ ”
Help is available, today
New Jersey officials and communities across the country are working to educate the public about the dangers of heroin and fentanyl. Prevention campaigns and programs help keep more individuals from getting hooked.
There is help for those addicted to heroin and/or fentanyl-laced heroin. The first step is to find a treatment program that specializes in opioid rehab and will work with each individual to create a treatment plan built around his or her specific needs.
Recovering from heroin addiction can take months or even years, but with the right kind of help, even the most seriously addicted individuals can put their drug abuse behind them.