Nearly two months after unusually potent heroin began killing scores of people in Chicago and several eastern cities, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration yesterday issued an alert to rehab centers and addiction specialists, USA Today reports. Since early April, more than 100 deaths have been linked to heroin mixed with fentanyl, a narcotic 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Chicago police are investigating whether the potent heroin caused 14 deaths there this week. Heroin sold illegally typically is diluted with common household substances such as sugar, flour, quinine, or starch. The mixing of heroin with a powerful drug such as fentanyl is highly unusual, says the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The recent outbreak of heroin-fentanyl overdoses surfaced April 13 in Chicago. Other cities – including Camden and Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa.; Detroit; St. Louis; and Wilmington, De. – began reporting such fatal overdoses soon afterward. In one week, Detroit authorities reported that 33 people died from the mix.