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Warning spreading to ERs about heroin-like drug

Heroin abuse is something that is on the radar screens of law enforcement authorities throughout Ohio. Do a search of the word "heroin" on The Columbus Dispatch website and you will see just how significant an issue the subject is in the state.

Any time public awareness is elevated this way, it tends to spark reaction from government and that certainly is happening in this instance. The result is that police are putting greater emphasis on trying to combat the drug. 

While the action is necessary, the collateral damage that can be caused if a person is simply charged with heroin possession can be huge. Often the allegation stems from the one-time exercise of bad judgment. When charges follow, a strong criminal defense is required.

As bad as heroin is, word is spreading throughout the medical community about what may be an even greater threat. A new study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine identifies the drug as acetyl fentanyl. The report warns emergency room doctors to be on the alert for a rash of overdoses.

The drug is an opiate analog. What makes it particularly bad, doctors say, is that it looks like heroin but is up to 15 times more powerful. And they say common use of the opiate-reversal treatment naloxone might not be effective. The fear is that as the drug spreads, so will the number of potentially deadly overdoses.

The journal report says one other cause for concern is the fact that acetyl fentanyl, while having no known medical use, is not subject to any particular government regulation. It is inexpensive and easy to come by, making it attractive as an additive. Drug dealers may mix it with their heroin supplies to increase their stock and increase their profits.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Quasi-legal street drug poses new lethal threat," Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 19, 2014

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