Across the Northeast there have been multiple reports of heroin overdoses and deaths linked to a particularly powerful form of heroin that is laced with fentanyl, a narcotic used by cancer patients for pain relief. It has claimed at least 50 lives, and in New York City investigators are trying to determine whether actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman died this weekend from fentanyl-laced heroin.
Hoffman, 46, an Oscar-winning actor, was found dead in his apartment on Sunday after overdosing.
For years police have traced the flow of heroin and other drugs up the Eastern seaboard. Lawrence has long been identified as a local hub in the drug trade, but it is not the origin point. Federal authorities say most of the heroin found in this region is imported from South America through long and complex transportation chains.
Word of tainted heroin in Salisbury comes in the wake of reports from Portsmouth, Seabrook and other Southern New Hampshire communities of overdoses connected to bad heroin. In Portsmouth last month, three people overdosed, with one person dying, within a 24-hour period. The outbreak prompted officials there to issue a warning about “bad heroin.”
More recently, three people in Salem, N.H. overdosed on possibly tainted narcotics within 24 hours of each other, according to police there.
Days before yesterday’s heroin overdoses, local police arrested Ian Osbourne, 34, of Hampton, N.H. and charged him with heroin distribution after finding 12 grams of heroin in his right shoe.
Fowler said it was too early to determine whether Osbourne was responsible for bringing bad heroin into the community but said police would continue to explore that possibility.
Fowler admitted that sending out a warning to heroin users to stop taking drugs may fall on deaf ears or may seem odd considering the drug is illegal.
“The reality is we have users in the area and I felt it was important to get the word out,” Fowler said.
Yesterday, police chiefs in Newburyport and Amesbury said there have been no drug overdoses in those cities.