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  • Heroin linked to 3 deaths ‘not rogue batch’

    Posted on October 9th, 2012 TimB No comments

    The heroin linked to three deaths in Cork and Dublin is “normal” and not a rogue “super-strength” batch of the drug, tests show.

    Garda and medical sources said the finding underlined the everyday risk facing injecting heroin users, particularly when they take it with other drugs and when their health is very poor.

    The Irish Examiner has learned that tests conducted on heroin samples found they all appeared to be standard street heroin, cut with the usual diluting agents such as paracetamol and caffeine.

    Last Friday, it emerged that two men in Cork City had died from heroin overdoses and that eight others had been treated in hospitals there for serious effects of opiate abuse.

    As a result, the HSE sent out an alert regarding a “suspected strong batch of heroin”. On Friday, another man in Santry, north Dublin, died from a heroin overdose.

    However, tests conducted at the State Forensic Science Laboratory on Saturday evening found there was nothing unusual with the samples of heroin taken from the three scenes.

    “It was very normal,” one source said.

    “The heroin had normal cutting agents, paracetamol and caffeine, so it appears to be normal.”

    He said there was a “false assumption” there was a strong batch, but said this was based on the sudden death of two men and eight other hospitalisations in Cork in 24 hours.

    He said that a further test was yet to be completed in the Forensic Laboratory, which would give an accurate estimate of the purity of the samples.

    He said that while heroin with purity as high as 85% has been seized, the average was around 40%.

    The HSE has compiled a report on the findings to the Department of the Taoiseach. It said no contaminants were found in the samples and that, given the presence of cutting agents, the heroin appeared to be “very normal”.

    It further emerged yesterday that just three people — and not eight — were admitted to Cork hospitals last Thursday and Friday. The reduced figure followed a detailed analysis of medical files.

    “We have seen this over the years,” said a Garda source. “A cluster of deaths and when we look into it, a big factor is polydrug use.” He said indications suggested the man who died in Santry had also consumed diazepam, a benzodiazepine. These tranquillisers are often found in polydrug overdoses.

    Garda sources said the general state of health of the three men was very poor.

    “Unfortunately, for chronic heroin addicts it’s only a matter of time before something like this happens,” said the garda.

    The results of toxicology tests from the three men — which will take a number of weeks to come back — will show what other substances were taken by the men.

    Health Research Board figures show that the number of deaths where heroin is implicated has risen: from 78 in 2007, to 90 in 2008 and to 108 in 2009 — the most recent figures available.

     

    Irish Examiner 9/10/2012

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