Recently there were 23 reported overdoses in Chicago within the same 24 hour period. After 72 hours, that number had jumped to 74.
Patients were rushed to the emergency room of Mt. Sinai, reportedly collapsing shortly after injecting the drug. The patients failed to respond to the standard treatment of Narcan, a drug that is used by emergency rooms to reverse the effects of an overdose. ER doctors had to double and triple the amount of Narcan in order to save the lives of many users.
Chicago Authorities Team Up With DEA to Tackle OD Epidemic
Following the rash of overdoses, two Chicago men have already been arrested and accused of manufacturing and distributing heroin. Currently, it’s not clear whether they were responsible for the batch responsible. Alfonzo Sylvester, 24, and 26-year-old Mario Wofford were arrested after selling heroin to an undercover police officer. Both men face felony charges.
Emergency responders aren’t sure if they’ve seen the last of the overdoses. “We don’t know if it’s the beginning, middle, or end of the surge,” a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department told the Chicago Tribune.
Police report that multiple law enforcement agencies, including federal officials from the DEA, have teamed up to locate the source. Both men arrested have been tied to the Unknown Vice Lords gang through court records.
Powerful Drug Fentanyl May Be To Blame for Overdoses
Police have said that the source of the heroin may have laced the supply with a powerful painkiller called Fentanyl, and authorities believe police may have obtained a batch that contained traces of the potent narcotic.
Fentanyl is used for treat cancer and surgery patients. This powerful opioid is considered 100 times more powerful than morphine and up to 50 times more powerful than heroin alone. Fentanyl can prove fatal even in small doses.
A similar epidemic of overdoses was linked to the drug in 2006. Former Chicago Police Supt. Phil Cline noted the parallels in an interview. “Fentanyl was the first thing that popped into my mind,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The craziest thing back then was that when other addicts heard people were overdosing, they ran to find the stuff right away because they wanted the most powerful high. They think other people’s tolerance is low and they can get that high without going over the edge. But they’re wrong.”
Law Enforcement Cracking Down on Chicago’s Heroin Problem
For Chicago law enforcement, the recent string of overdoses is only the latest development of a larger problem: heroin use has been on a steady rise in Cook County and beyond.
Across the US, heroin overdoses have quadrupled within the last decade. Between 2007 and 2013 alone, authorities report that use has doubled. Chicago has been hit hardest by the epidemic, many experts believe.
“We have the worst heroin problem in the nation in the Chicago area,” says David Cohen, a recovering heroin addict and counselor at Chicago’s Insight Behavioural Health treatment center, in an interview with The Economist.
If you have been caught up in the recent crackdown for a heroin-related crime, you should know that penalties are incredibly severe. For the best possible outcome, you need a strong defense – consult with an knowledgeable drug crimes attorney as soon as possible.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.