TODAY'S NEWS

‘Highly potent heroin’ - Coalition warns of laced drug in region after deaths

The Warren Sentinel

WINCHESTER — Three heroin overdose deaths were reported Friday in Frederick and Clarke counties, indicating the likely presence of "highly potent heroin" in the area, according to a press release from the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition.

Authorities confirmed a 31-year-old Leesburg man died from an overdose in Clarke County. In Frederick County, two men, ages 33 and 38, also died. Their names are not being released at this time.

Two overdose deaths have been reported in Warren County so far this year, according to the coalitionís Concern Hotline website.

Eleven nonfatal overdoses were reported as of Friday, according to the coalition.

"It is our belief that we are seeing a batch of heroin that has either been laced with fentanyl or carfentanil, which obviously increases the potency of the heroin and is likely the cause of the overdoses," said Lauren Cummings, the coalition's executive director.

Fentanyl — a fast-acting narcotic painkiller and sedative — is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Carfentanil, an analog of fentanyl, is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

"Agents with the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force are ramping up efforts to identify the source of the deadly batch in an effort to prevent additional overdoses," the release states.

In Carroll County, Md., seven overdoses were reported in the span of two hours on Friday, according to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition.

"We need the public's help to spread the word about this potent batch of heroin that is claiming lives in our area," Cummings said.

Data kept by the the coalition indicates 119 people in the Northern Shenandoah Valley have lost their lives to heroin overdoses since 2011.

"The big thing is that we have to get more people into treatment and get folks the help that they need," Cummings said. "We have a significant population in our area that is underserved or not served at all. Most of these folks do not have insurance and, unfortunately, previously the practice has been to put people in jail who are suffering from the disease of addiction."

Frederick County Sheriff Lenny Millholland said his office is doing what it can to address the problem.

"Every single time that we have a heroin overdose, weíll follow it up as far as we can follow it up," Millholland said. "We make arrests where possible. We don't take it lightly. We are going after the dealer the best that we can, and then we are going to prosecute him as far as we can to get as much [jail] time as possible."

People struggling with addiction, or friends or relatives of those who are affected, are encouraged to seek help by visiting roadtorecovery.info or calling Concern Hotline at (540) 635-4357.



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