Wave of Heroin Overdoses Plagues Pittsburgh

By Shawn Dwyer 01/27/14

A deadly batch of heroin called ‘Theraflu’ has resulted in at least 17 deaths in only a week.

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According to county officials, a deadly new brand of heroin dubbed ‘Theraflu’ is responsible for at least 17 overdose deaths in Pittsburgh over the course of the last week. And just like other sudden spikes in overdose deaths across the nation, the rash has been connected to the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

“It is absolutely critical – especially those that have loved ones who are in recovery, or those that are addicted – to make sure they know that if they have that bag, and it is stamped with ‘Theraflu,’ to get rid of it,” said Pittsburgh mayor William Peduto in an interview with CBS Pittsburgh. “It will kill you.” Allegheny County Medical Examiner, Dr. Karl Williams, echoed the mayor’s sentiment by labeling the deaths a “major public health crisis” after nine people died in one day. Dr. Williams said that he believed users weren’t aware of what they were getting on the streets. “A lot of people that think that they’re getting heroin may be getting something that is 10 to 100 times more potent than heroin,” he said.

By Monday, the death toll from Theraflu had climbed to 22 victims. Meanwhile, Mayor Peduto was quick to point out that the epidemic was not an inner city issue.“Many of these people were white, 20, 30 years old,” he said. “I’m not sure of their professional background. Heroin doesn’t pick and choose by class or by race. If somebody has an addictive personality and they get into heroin, then they’re stuck.”

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.