Bad batch of heroin to blame for Lafayette's recent surge in overdoses

Lafayette Police Department was called to at least ten suspected overdoses in the span of a few days, from last Friday to Sunday. Three of those people died.

Posted: Nov 20, 2020 3:26 PM
Updated: Nov 20, 2020 6:28 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Police suspect a bad batch of heroin is to blame for a surge of overdoses across the city.

Lafayette Police Department was called to at least ten suspected overdoses in the span of a few days, from last Friday to Sunday. Three of those people died.

Sgt. Ian O'Shields suspects the heroin was cut with a stronger synthetic opioid, but he's not sure yet if fentanyl is to blame for the recent deadly weekend.

"The element of not knowing what's been cut into the drug is probably what's causing the majority of overdoses," he says. "Because again, they have no clue what's in that powder."

The surge is part of a nationwide rise of potent synthetic opioids. At least 41,000 people have died over the past year from overdoses on synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

O'Shields says the majority of heroin tested in Lafayette comes back as partly or all fentanyl.

"Because they are introducing agents like fentanyl in there that are so potent, it's killing people," he says.

Grace Paton, a recovery coach for the Tippecanoe County Health Department's Gateway to Hope syringe service program, says so much fentanyl is circulating the community that the program ran out of test strips.

Paton is urging people to take advantage of resources available through the Gateway to Hope program, like Narcan and naloxone, which counteract the deadly effects of powerful opioids like fentanyl and, she says, could have saved the lives of the three people who died.

She says multiple doses of Narcan or naloxone are often needed to counteract the powerful effects of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. 

"Fentanyl and carfentanyl are in everything," she says. "People are really not even getting heroin anymore, unless it's tar heroin, which is rare for our area."

As News 18 previously reported, opioid overdoses this year are up compared to last year. Paton says isolation and stress related to the pandemic are at least partly to blame.

"The opposite of addiction is connection and staying connected with people, and we've lost a lot of connection this year because of COVID," she says. 

Tippecanoe County Deputy Coroner Carrie Costello says she's waiting on toxicology results to confirm exactly how the three people died and what kind of substances might have contributed.

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