'Extremely Pure' Heroin Moving South? Seven OD Victims Here Followed by Seven in Cowlitz

Seven heroin deaths in a few days. A month ago, it was King County. This week, it's Cowlitz County, in Southwest Washington. In the words yesterday of that county's coroner, Tim Davidson, "We're finding them with the needle still in their arm or in their hand."And now officials in Vancouver and Portland, south of the Longview-Kelso area, say they're getting reports of "hot" heroin overdoses.

The first Cowlitz victims overdosed on Friday - one died after shooting up alongside a local creek, although his body was dumped and not found until Tuesday. Another overdosed Friday in a public rest room at a Fred Meyer store. Five others have died since then, Davidson tells the Longview Daily News.

KATU-TV of Portland reports the victims were four men and three women ranging in ages from their early 20s into their late 50s. All were experienced users. "More than one of them appear to have recently left rehab before using again," Davidson said.

That brings the toll to 14 known western Washington victims who've died in the past five weeks from heroin that, as King County officials termed it, was extremely potent or could have had a lethal additive mixed in.

The King County deaths began on March 3, according to the city-county Public Health department. From that Saturday through Monday, the King County Medical Examiner's office picked up the bodies from seven death scenes in the city and county. Victims ranged in age from 17 to 61.

In a public alert, King County officials urged users to carry life-saving doses of Narcan (naloxone), an antidote that can be taken after an OD, neutralizing opiate effects within a minute.

But Cowlitz assistant coroner Brett Dundas says the heroin there is so "hot," as in pure, that victims are dying before they can be administered the antidote.

Users "go into immediate respiratory failure," said Dundas. "They're unable to be revived, even if medics are right on the scene."

He's also hearing that medical examiners in Vancouver and Portland are "all talking about hot heroin," Dundas said.

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