, Newburyport, MA

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February 14, 2014

Trends in 'bad heroin' fight

NEWBURYPORT — Tony Pettigrew, Drug Enforcement Agency Boston office spokesman, has strong feelings about the notion that it’s “bad heroin” that’s the cause of the rash of drug overdoses and deaths throughout New England recently.

“We keep hearing about the problem being caused by bad batches of heroin,” said Pettigrew, a Newburyport resident. “There’s no such thing as a good batch of heroin. When you use any heroin, you’re playing Russian roulette. Heroin has never gone away. It’s a problem our office is working on every day.”

The illegal drug has made the news in every state in New England of late, primarily because heroin-caused overdoses and deaths are happening in places unaccustomed to witnessing its presence so frequently and fatally. Some of those overdoses are being linked to so-called “bad heroin,” a potentially deadly mixture of heroin and fentanyl, a powerful prescription narcotic.

For the past 10 years in the region, the illegal use of prescription drugs has been the culprit killing drug abusers.

Thought to be the scourge of large inner cities like New York, heroin is now in places like Vermont, where the governor recently held a press conference on the problem in the Green Mountain State.

In New Hampshire, the medical examiner’s office called the drug “an urgent health issue,” when records showed that in 2012 heroin was the top killer in drug deaths in the Granite State, responsible for 38 deaths. Although last year’s data isn’t complete, at least 63 people died of heroin overdoses in 2013.

Multiple overdose victims and deaths have been recorded within hours of each other in Massachusetts and every New England state, Pettigrew said. Some of the problem has been traced to the “bad heroin” that’s made its way north from Pennsylvania, where it was responsible for a number of deaths.

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