Lethal batches of heroin are still showing up in Central New York as the addiction epidemic continues to take lives. Three recent overdoses in Cayuga County illustrate the challenges of reaching addicts, and tracing the potent drugs.
Anytime police hear about clusters of heroin overdoses, they become suspicious about the composition of the drug. Auburn Police Deputy Chief Roger Anthony says that happened last weekend…
"We wanted to get the word out that there may be a bad mixture with a cutting agent with heroin that people are ingesting. We don't know that for a fact. We've seen it in the past few years where heroin is laced with a strong dose of fentanyl, causing a strong overdose reaction. We just wanted to get the word out as soon as we noticed."
Kein Trease is prevention educator at the Prevention Network, and acknowledges it’s a terrible way to find out if you have to trace and test the drug.
"Obviously we don't know the fentanyl is in there until we have the tragic events where people are dying."
Toxicology reports will ultimately show if fentanyl was indeed in the heroin that caused the overdoses. Auburn police posted the warning on its Facebook page hoping to reach the addict community. Deputy Chief Anthony says the message served a dual purpose.
"It does sound strange for the police to say 'be careful what types of illegal drugs you're using.' Ultimately, we want to offer a place for people to go to get the help they need, to recover from addiction."
Trease with the Prevention Network anything that gets information and resources to addicts is helpful. He says in the Syracuse area, they go right to the addicts.
"Talking to them about what's out there as far as treatment, being able to get clean, or any sort of therapy they might need. It's a boots on the ground approach versus trying to do it through social or regular media."
Both Trease and Anthony say laws limiting the prescription of opioids combined with drug take back programs are reducing the supply, and therefore the addiction rates…though it’s still an ongoing problem. Anthony says the decrease in heroin abuse over the past year or so seems consistent with the increased use of another drug.
"We're seeing a lot more cocaine investigations now than we were two, three years ago. So I think people are going to cocaine more than heroin, probably because there are so many overdose deaths as a result of use."
Trease with the Prevention Network hasn’t seen any hard numbers on his end to show that trend. He adds, however, that he has heard anecdotally from some youth and teachers who do mention more cocaine use.