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Heroin Tied to Causing Deaths in Pittsburgh

Update Date: Jan 27, 2014 12:07 PM EST

According to public health officials, a "bad batch" of heroin could be killing users at a faster pace. The officials reported that in Pittsburgh, PA, heroin might be the cause of at least four deaths over the span of one day. The drug might also be responsible for the deaths of 15 people within just five days. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner, Karl Williams announced that the investigation into these cases is in its early stages.

So far, the officials reported that in some of the cases, the police identified bags labeled "Theraflu." When some of these bags were removed from the scene and tested, Williams reported finding traces of fentanyl, which is an extremely powerful narcotic drug that is typically used to treat chronic pain. Fentanyl can also be used as an anesthesia.

"This is [a] major increase in drug overdoses," Williams stated according to ABC News. "[Fentanyl is] very strong. 10 to 100 times as strong as morphine."

Even though the investigation has not identified this type of heroin as the definite cause of death, Williams reasoned that if people are taking fentanyl with heroin, the effects could be so powerful that the body might not be prepared for it. Williams added that this outbreak of deadly overdoses could become a "major public health crisis." Although fentanyl is a prescription drug, Williams believes that the powdered form of the drug is being manufactured by someone in an underground laboratory. The drug could then be mixed with heroin and even potentially other drugs before being sold on the streets.

"Those who are in possession of this potent formula are in danger of losing their lives," Mayor William Peduto said according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It will kill you. The danger cannot be overstated."

With the number of deaths rising, government officials issued warnings against taking heroin. However, since heroin is an extremely addictive substance, whether or not people will heed these warnings is unclear.

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