Fentanyl-laced heroin is being blamed for two more overdose deaths in Delaware.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed the deaths were linked to heroin cut with the synthetic painkiller. Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin to produce a stronger high.
The two adults died in early April; one in Millsboro and the other in Claymont. Between March 20 and April 5, eight people died from fentanyl-tainted heroin overdoses. The deaths involved six men and two women, ranging in ages from 28 to 58.
The number of deaths so far this year has already outpaced the state’s last fentanyl-tainted heroin overdose outbreak, when Delaware had seven confirmed deaths in all of 2006.
“The warning needs to get out that fentanyl-laced heroin is here in Delaware and that people are dying from it,” Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said.
Unfortunately, in some cases, even the threat of death is not enough to deter someone from using the adulterated drug.
“You find out that the heroin in this part of the city is killing people, it must be really good. And that’s the thought process,” said Jennifer Whitehead, who struggled with a heroin addiction for more than a decade. Sober now, she sought help from Brandywine Counseling and Community Services, a medication management clinic that dispenses drugs, like methadone, to help curb heroin cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Steve Dettwyler, DHSS’ director of Community Mental Health and Addiction Services, said individuals should not be ashamed or embarrassed to seek treatment. “Addiction is a disease,” he said. “It can be treated, and people do recover.”
Fentanyl-laced heroin has been blamed for dozens of overdose deaths across the United States this year, including 28 confirmed deaths in Philadelphia in March and April.
WHYY will explore the problem of heroin addiction in Delaware on First next Friday at 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.