Delaware health officials warn drug users about tainted heroin

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Delaware health officials say a record number of overdose deaths appear to be linked to fentanyl. (File photo)

Delaware health officials say a record number of overdose deaths appear to be linked to fentanyl. (File photo)

In the wake of a dozen overdoses in New Jersey, Delaware health officials are warning heroin users in the First State about the increased chances that the drug could be laced with fatal amounts of fentanyl.

Camden County Police said at least a dozen people overdosed Friday on heroin laced with fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller that’s 50 times more potent than heroin. Four people died.

“Because of I-95, we know it’s easy for heroin and other illicit drugs to flow to Delaware from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, secretary of Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services. “This is a concern that we have seen over time when an alert has gone out from some place close to us, it’s actually put Delawareans more at risk to substance using.”

Walker said preliminary numbers show a spike in overdose deaths over the weekend in Delaware.

“What we saw between Friday and Monday was an additional six overdose deaths, which was a little bit higher than what we would expect for a normal weekend. And that connection is enough to suggest that people may be at more risk,” Walker said.

“We were concerned that there may be some relationship between those deaths here in our state and in New Jersey. We wanted to make sure that people who were in active use would make sure that they have access to naloxone or family and friends who may know of someone who’s dealing with a substance use disorder would be able to access additional services if they are in need.”

According to preliminary reports from Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security, 71 people have died from overdoses so far this year — the youngest was 19, the oldest 74.

The rate of overdose deaths continues to increase in Delaware. In 2017, 345 people died from overdoses, up 12 percent from the 308 people who died in 2016, according to the Division of Forensic Science.

The state has set up HelpIsHereDE.com for individuals and families looking for addiction treatment and recovery services in Delaware or nearby states.

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