PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Authorities say a rash of overdoses recently were caused by the drug Fentanyl, when users thought they were getting heroin.
Officials say seven overdoses and two deaths have been reported over the past few days. At first they reported 10 overdoses, but then revised the number in a press conference Friday.
Last year, more than 20 people died after overdosing on heroin laced with Fentanyl.
“If you were to think you were getting heroin, and instead, you were getting Fentanyl, it’s much stronger than heroin. As we saw in the 50-50 combination a year or so ago,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, of the Allegheny County Health Department. “It’s sometimes called 50 times stronger than heroin.”
“Fentanyl was first manufactured, discovered if you will, in the ‘70s. It was really the first of what led to the category of designer drugs,” said Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams.
On Friday, someone was sent to the hospital for an overdose on Los Angeles Avenue in Beechview.
Police say preliminary results show that Fentanyl is actually responsible for most of the recent overdoses, not heroin. In five cases, it was almost entirely due to Fentanyl — in one case it was mixed with heroin.
In those cases, officials say bags they tested labeled “Predator” and “Chocolate” contained Fentanyl. One marked “Chicken/Waffle” did contain heroin.
“Virtually, all of the specimens submitted to my laboratory have been Fentanyl and not actually been heroin,” said Dr. Williams. “Only one of the cases, which is one of the overdose deaths, is heroin.”
One couple, accused of selling drugs labeled “Predator” is now in jail.
Raeann Gonzalez, 27, and Justin Robinson, 29, are accused of selling the drugs. Police arrested them on Thursday. The two have a 5-year-old daughter together.
Police initially obtained a search warrant for a home on Leolyn Street in Carrick.
Gonzalez had been living there with family members, and Robinson had been staying there for a little over a month.
According to the criminal complaint, when SWAT went to the home to find Robinson, he wasn’t there. Gonzalez was driving her car and Robinson was in the passenger seat. Officers pulled Robinson and Gonzalez over for not using a turn signal on Mt. Joseph Street.
During the traffic stop, police noticed Robinson clutching a large plastic hairbrush with both hands on his lap.
When police approached the vehicle and told them they had a search warrant, Robinson said, “Search whatever you want, I don’t have anything illegal.”
Police found 16 bundles of “Predator” drugs, two bundles of heroin labeled “Night Owl” and one suboxone film strip inside the bristles of the brush.
The SWAT team went back to the home where Robinson was staying after he admitted to having heroin there.
Officers discovered 31 bundles of heroin labeled “Night Owl” and 10 bundles of heroin labeled “Predator” inside the stove. After the couple was arrested, police found 14 bundles of heroin in Gonzalez’s bra.
Gonzalez’s family says she was working a good job at UPMC and was never involved with drugs until she got caught up with the wrong people.
Records show Robinson had been in and out of jail over the past several years.
Both Gonzalez and Robinson were taken to the Allegheny County Jail, where they face charges of conspiracy, possession and possession with intent to deliver.
Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 29 at 8 a.m.