Several deaths in Nassau County initially linked to heroin abuse appear to have been caused by the powerful painkiller fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine, officials said Friday.
The Nassau County Medical Examiner’s office released a “contaminated heroin alert” following an investigation into the overdose deaths, and determined that the heroin found in victims’ systems also contained fentanyl in combination with the banned antipyretic metamizole, which has been banned in the United States since 1977.
Authorities also said the glassine packets being peddled on the streets are stamped as “24K” in red ink.
Fentanyl is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or for anesthesia.
Mixing the painkiller with heroin or cocaine “markedly amplifies their potency and potential dangers,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The agency said in 2006 that some users may be unwittingly taking the drug because they don’t know the composition of the drugs they’re buying.