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January 09, 2015

Six deaths linked to tainted heroin

New Jersey State Police warn that some of the brands are not responsive to anti-opioid drugs

New Jersey State Police are linking six fatalities to tainted heroin, some of which is not responsive to anti-opioid drugs police have administered to prevent deaths when users overdose.

Three brands of the drug were identified as especially lethal. They were labeled “Power Hour,” “Taliban” and “Strike Dead.” Officials said that lab analysis of these three strands of heroin reveals that they contain highly dangerous drug combinations not normally seen.

Police said that some of the drugs are also resistant to Narcan, which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praised as a kind of savior-drug that can be administered during an overdose and save the lives of people who might otherwise die.

Police identified the drug strains as a regional problem and said law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York were collaborating to deal with the new substances. They said that some of the brands don’t actually contain heroin.

“Nothing less than an all-out, multi-disciplinary approach will suffice to address the crisis of heroin abuse in New Jersey that is destroying lives and ripping apart our families and communities,” said New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John Hoffman. “The Drug Monitoring Initiative is a common-sense, lifesaving program that sounds the alarm when we identify lethal drug brands being peddled on our streets.”

Christie made combating heroin and drug addiction a central part of his agenda. His state has been hit hard by a spike in opiate-related fatalities in recent years. Christie has said the drug war wasn’t working, and that addiction must be treated as a disease that can not be solved just by arresting  users.

Part of his efforts included introducing Narcan to police departments, who were then able to administer the substance in emergency circumstances to those suffering opiate overdoses. Pilot programs were set up in August in the state’s hardest-impacted counties. A governor’s office press release announcing the Narcan pilot program said heroin overdose deaths in Ocean County increased from 53 in 2012 to 112 the following year.

“Since early last year, we have taken a fresh approach to combating the heroin epidemic in the region based on information sharing from the local through the federal levels,” said Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent to the New Jersey State Police. “When we learn of clusters of drug overdoses, we immediately alert our law enforcement partners with details of the threat.”