A deadly batch of heroin is said to have killed 17 people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Police say that this deadly batch of drugs has been dubbed, “Theraflu.” What has many worried is that Theraflu is the name of an over-the-counter cough and flu medication, and a popular one at that.
According to ABC News, the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania medical examiner’s office said Monday that 13 people have died of suspected drug overdoses. Another four deaths as a result of overdoses in nearby counties have brought the total up to 17 in the past week or so. “Near four of the scenes where individuals died, police found heroin ‘stamp bags’ marked with red ink with the word ‘Theraflu.’” Police and Pittsburgh’s mayor, William Peduto are warning users of the branded bags:
“It is absolutely critical — especially those that have loved ones who are in recovery, or those that are addicted — to make sure they know that if they have that bag, and it is stamped with ‘Theraflu,’ to get rid of it,” Pittsburgh mayor told CBS Pittsburgh. “It will kill you.”
Allegheny County Medical Examiner, Dr. Karl Williams told reporters on Sunday that the deadly batch of heroin appears to contain a powerful painkiller called Fentanyl. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this drug is a rapid-acting opioid drug that alleviates pain without causing loss of consciousness.
“Fentanyl depresses central nervous system (CNS) and respiratory function. Exposure to fentanyl may be fatal. Fentanyl is estimated to be 80 times as potent as morphine and hundreds of times more potent than heroin.”
An alert was issued by county health officials on Saturday after at least four people died within 24 hours according to Williams. “When you get four (overdoses) in one day, three in another day, you’ve got a marked increase,” he said. “That associated with some change in the pattern of what drugs people are getting.”
This drastic spike in heroin related deaths has the community on edge. It is currently unknown whether the bags stamped “Theraflu” are the only packages that are in circulation that contain the deadly narcotic. According to the New York Daily News, toxicologists are still in the early stages of determining just how concentrated the deadly batches of heroin are.
“A lot of people that think that they’re getting heroin may be getting something that is 10 to 100 times more potent than heroin,” said Williams.