Fentanyl-Cocaine Combo Drug Causing Deaths In Western PA
According to Pennsylvania officials, which include law enforcement and medical examiners, a fentanyl-cocaine combo drug has shown up in the western part of the state and is responsible for multiple deaths.
This combination is a modern version of the heroin-cocaine mixture known as a speedball, a less potent but still potentially fatal drug cocktail that killed actors John Belushi and River Phoenix decades ago.
Joshua C. Zappone, Westmoreland County Deputy Coroner, said that these two drugs have become increasingly common in overdose deaths that were investigated in the last two years. Moreover, only 2 of 11 people who died with cocaine in their systems had fentanyl present in 2015, but in 2017, 40 of 48 cases of cocaine poisoning also involved fentanyl.
Zappone, according to TRIBLIVE:
“The amount of cocaine-related deaths dramatically began to increase in 2016, and most likely due to the start of fentanyl being mixed with it.”
Fentanyl is a drug similar to heroin but as much as 50 times more potent. More commonly, it’s laced with heroin and fake prescription drugs (aka sold as Xanax or OxyContin) but it has also been seen combined with stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines.
For example, the artist Prince, who died in April 2017 of a fentanyl overdose, was likely exposed when he took pills that he thought were Vicodin.
People who are using this combination may do so because they have a high tolerance for opioids and find the risk, although high, to be somehow worth it. But there are others who are seeking out cocaine only and get an unwanted surprise.
When the effects of the cocaine wear off, the fentanyl is left alone to do what it does best – cause central nervous system depression, which can result in death. Moreover, if the cocaine doesn’t cause cardiac arrest, the inclusion of fentanyl can cause the person to stop breathing.
Up until 2002, cocaine was #1 killer in Pennsylvania, but since that time, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have taken over. While cocaine didn’t disappear by any means, deaths involving opiates and opioids have steadily risen for the past few years, most recently led by fentanyl.
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