At least 28 people in Philadelphia died after using heroin laced with the painkiller fentanyl between March 3 and April 20, the city announced Monday. Officials are awaiting test results on seven more people.
Last year, the city had 24 deaths due to illicit fentanyl use, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The drug was implicated in 269 deaths in 2006 in the city.
Earlier this year, law enforcement officials said heroin laced with fentanyl was suspected in at least 50 fatal overdoses in three states. In Pennsylvania, the drug combination was suspected in at least 17 deaths. Officials in Maryland and Michigan were also investigating deaths linked to the drug mix. In Flint, Michigan, fentanyl-laced heroin was suspected in four overdoses.
Fentanyl is often used during surgery, and is delivered primarily through a patch worn on the skin. Illicit fentanyl is added to heroin to create a stronger high. The article notes it can be a white powder like heroin but is 50 times stronger. The drug can interfere with breathing.
Officials don’t know whether people who purchased the fentanyl-laced heroin knew what they were getting. They also don’t know who is making or selling the product, or what it is being called.