Surge Of Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Prompts Authorities To Sound Alarm

May 6, 2015

Branded as “The King” or “Ronald Reagan,” potent and possibly deadly batches of heroin are again popping up in New England.

Heroin laced with fentanyl was responsible for a spate of overdose deaths in the Upper Valley last fall. And now, Vermont authorities are again sounding the alarm about heroin that contains this sedative, which is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Captain JP Sinclair, chief criminal investigator for the Vermont State Police, says the substance is much more powerful than heroin.

“People that are in the throes of addiction, they know how many bags they normally do per time. But when they get heroin that has a fentanyl mix of unknown proportion, their so-called 'normal' amount is actually compounded many more times by the potency of the fentanyl. And they may be, accidentally, putting themselves at a very high risk of overdose.”

The Vermont State Police has put out a description of the packaging of this heroin, which they say has been seen in red and white wax paper bags, some marked with the red Superman emblem and some with the head of a gorilla. Sinclair says their thoughts behind releasing this information wasn’t just for those using, but also those close to them.

“There are a number of people that surround anybody who is dealing with an addiction … and if they see any of these particular packages around, maybe this can be an alarm that may lead to some medical intervention sooner rather than later,” says Sinclair. “Time is of the essence. It could be the difference between the person surviving that experience or me having to send out one of my death investigators.”

"There are a number of people that surround anybody who is dealing with an addiction ... and if they see any of these particular packages around, maybe this can be an alarm that may lead to some medical intervention sooner rather than later." - Captain JP Sinclair, chief criminal investigator for the Vermont State Police

Sinclair says that although they are seeing an increase in heroin-related deaths in the past few years, it’s not isolated to just Vermont. ““We’re seeing it across the country. Every state is dealing with [fentanyl] and Vermont is, unfortunately, no exception … from 2012, we went up from nine heroin-related deaths all the way up to 35 in 2014.”