In at least two area communities, heroin overdoses dropped in February, the same month local, state and federal detectives conducted a special raid in the hopes of getting a dangerous batch of the illegal drug off the streets.
Statistics compiled by the Methuen Police Department show that in November 2013 there were 14 heroin overdoses, followed by four heroin overdoses in December and 14 overdoses in January 2014. However, just two heroin overdoses were reported on Feb. 1 and Feb. 27 respectively, according to the report.
So far in March, just a single overdose was reported and that happened early Monday afternoon, according to Methuen police.
Police in Salem, N.H. report a similar slow down. A woman died at Red Roof Inn on Feb. 13 from an apparent heroin overdose. Since then, six overdoses were reported but only one involved heroin, said Deputy Chief Shawn Patten.
Area law enforcement blamed the rash of overdoses on heroin laced with fentanyl, a synthetic drug introduced in the 1960s as an intravenous anesthetic. Fentanyl is stronger than morphine, another painkiller used for extreme pain. The local trend was mirrored nationally in an alarming spike.
On Feb. 6, in response to the deadly threat, detectives from the Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts State Police and FBI conducted an operation to step on the drug. Thirty arrests were made in Lawrence, Methuen and Haverhill, including local residents and from Somerville, Medford, North Conway, N.H. and Fryeburg, Maine.
Police are unsure if the stepped up enforcement or publicity contributed to the overdose decline. Or if a dangerous batch of drugs simply ran its course and out of circulation in the area.
“It’s probably a little bit of everything,” said Methuen Police Capt. Kristopher McCarthy. “Honestly, I think a bad batch ran its course.”
Patten, in Salem, N.H., said “hopefully, that bad batch has passed.”