PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – This past weekend 17 people in the Pittsburgh area died from a “killer” strain of heroin. Many of those who fell victim to this poison sadly chose to try the drug to see what would happen.
The deadly strain of heroin contains a powerful narcotic called fentanyl. Doctors agree that this is an extraordinarily potent narcotic that can be 100 times stronger than morphine. Morphine is the base product in heroin.
There were only two other times when deadly strains of heroin came to the Pittsburgh area. In 2006, 10 deaths and over a dozen overdoses were caused by “Get high or die trying.” While in 1988 “China White” heroin mixed with fentanyl killed 18 people.
The Medical Director of Gateway Rehab Center Dr. Neil Capretto strongly agrees that naloxone can be a great drug for those who need it. But, he stresses that the drug can become addictive and that there are stronger and more deadly strands of the drug out there. If you need the drug, stick with your doctor’s prescription.
“I started hearing patients talk about this ‘Theraflu’ at the end of last week,” said Dr. Capretto. “We’re losing close to 300 people a year in Allegheny County alone with the heroin already out there. ”
Dr. Capretto explains that some users he’s spoken to were ones who could take as many as 10 to 15 stamp bags of typical heroin a day, but can only use two to three of this new heroin without needing medical attention.
Many heroin users buy bags in what is called a ‘bundle,’ that includes 10 bags. In the city, that could range anywhere between $65-$75, while in the suburbs, you would look to spend $100. One bag could possibly be sold for $10.
“You can use your imagination on where they get the money for these bags,” said Dr. Capretto. “There’s a lot of shoplifting, theft, prostitution and a lot of times recruiting others to buy and sell drugs from you.”
He feels that addiction is like an infectious disease in the area, it spreads.
KDKA’s Mike Pintek was curious about where fentanyl is coming from and the benefits of using this drug. Dr. Capretto has heard that this drug is coming from the New York and New Jersey area. There could even be a “Walter White” type chemist creating this in his basement and sending it down the coast.
“[Fentanyl] is a medicine. It’s used in anesthesia. It’s a very, very potent pain medicine. There’s patches of it that a small amount is pain relief,” said Dr. Capretto. “These are for serious pain patients like hospice type pain patients.”
Many drug users think they’re buying heroin, but their dealers may tell them that this is a lot stronger than their typical stuff. Some of the people Dr. Capretto spoke with were told by their dealers to use less than what they normally would.
Dr. Capretto also addressed the difference in how potent the multiple strands of legalized marijuana can be, such as the ones in Colorado. He explains that the active ingredient people are looking for is THC, Deltanyne, tetrahydrocannabinol.
“In the 70s, average marijuana that a lot of the baby boomers had was up to one-half or two percent,” said Dr. Capretto. “As we got in to the 80s and early 90s, it averaged around three percent THC. As we got in to the 2000s it was 7-10 percent.”
He continues that last year, studies found that the average is around 15 percent with some being even around 25 percent or more. In many ways, he’s concluding that the marijuana now is stronger than the kind from the 70s.
There is another chemical in marijuana that is slowly being taken out of the plant, CBD. Cannabidiol reduces the effects of THC and is a main component of medical marijuana.
The effects of cannabidiol include reduced pain, anxiety, and nausea, sedative effects, anti-convulsive and anti-schizophrenic. Many doctors believe that CBD can help reduce seizures in those who suffer from epilepsy.