Heroin is more deadly today than in the past because it may be purer or mixed with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl or carfentanil. Synthetic opioids are cheaper than heroin and some dealers “heroin” may not contain any heroin but be 100% synthetic opioids. Compared to heroin, carfentanil and fentanyl are fatal in much smaller doses. A 2 mg dose of fentanyl can be fatal. A dose of carfentanil the size of a grain of salt can kill and adult male.
Heroin from Mexico which is sold as black tar is deadly because it is 99% pure heroin. After poppy sap is harvested from the fields the black tar heroin is produced and sold directly to the public. Mexican black tar heroin is not passed through multiple dealers and distributors who cut fillers into the heroin. A user who inject his/ her usual dose of heroin will get too much heroin and overdose.
If you are with someone who has overdosed or you experience symptoms of an overdose here’s actions you can take:
- Administer naloxone. Naloxone comes in an easy to administer nasal spray and injectable forms. It acts quickly to reverse the effects of heroin. Know that if the person has taken fentanyl or carfentanyl, more than one dose of naloxone will be needed
- Call for help as soon as possible. Even if the person awakens, do not leave the person alone
- If you do not have access to naloxone, start administering hands only chest compress CPR and call for help. If other person is available send the other person to call for help while you continue CPR.
- Safety measures:
- do not expose yourself to even small doses of fentanyl or carfentanil because you may die.
- Call for help immediately and stay with the person.
- Know the law in your state. Find out about changes in state laws regarding emergency treatment for opioid overdose by checking the internet for your state’s heroin task force or information on the attorney general’s website.
In 2014 Governor McAuliffe established the Governor’s Task Force of prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse. The Task force focuses on education, treatment, storage and disposal of prescription drugs, data and monitoring of prescription drugs, and enforcement. Members of the community, including former drug abusers, can apply to be on the task force.
In September of 2014 Attorney General Herring and legislators established a Good Samaritan provision for safe reporting. Safe reporting encourages reporting of overdoses in progress. The reporter must stay at the scene, self-identify as the reporter and cannot be involved in drug trafficking. The Attorney General also expanded the prescription monitoring program which decreases illegal distribution of prescription drugs.
This November Virginia’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Levine, made naloxone available at pharmacies without a prescription. Naloxone can reverse a heroin overdose and should be safely stored in the homes of people addicted to heroin. Naloxone cost about $40.00