Gardaí and health officials brace for more deaths from synthetic heroin

Gardaí and health officials fear more drug-related deaths from a super-strong form of synthetic heroin after five deaths in the last three months.

Three deaths in Dublin and two in Cork linked to fentanyl have been recorded.

All five victims are believed to be aged in their 20s and 30s. The first death occurred in Cork on April 27, followed by three in Dublin at the end of May and a fifth in Cork on July 25. Three of the deceased are thought to have been intravenous heroin users.

A senior source told the Irish Examiner the drug is “so toxic that 2mg is enough to kill”.

Fentanyl has for many years caused significant numbers of drug deaths in the Baltic States and Russia and more recent times has spread to other parts of Europe, including Germany, Sweden, and the UK. Gardaí and health officials had been fearing its arrival in Ireland.

A report into the death of music star Prince earlier this year stated the singer died as a result of “decadent self- administered fentanyl”.

In the three cases in Dublin, gardaí and health officials were unable to locate the product the victims took and had to depend on pathology results, which indicated fentanyl. In the last case in Cork, they found the product the user took — and it too was fentanyl.

Sources said it was “really important to get on top of this as quickly as possible” given the potential of the drug to cause more deaths.

Gardaí are investigating how the drug is getting into the country. While it is possible it is being brought in in very small quantities, perhaps through the Darknet, it is also possible it could be coming in through an organised crime gang.

The fact that the drug has been found in two different parts of the country, spread out over a span of three months, may suggest it is coming in through a traditional drug smuggling route.

Sources said the latter would be a far worse prospect for gardaí and health authorites given the potential scale involved.

“This is the first time we have seen fentanyl in this country, “ Dr Eamon Keenan, HSE national clinical lead for addiction, told RTÉ last night. “It has been reported in other countries across Europe, particularly eastern Europe in Estonia. It has also been reported in the United States and Canada. Its emergence now in this country is a big worry for healthcare services.”

His advice was: “Don’t take this drug. It is extremely dangerous in terms of overdose and we would say to anyone who is using the drug or who is aware their family member is using this drug that they should present to their local addiction service for treatment.”

Figures show there were 650 deaths linked to fentanyl in Estonia between 2005 and 2012, 160 in Germany, mostly since 2008, and 50 in the UK.


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