Authorities have announced the fatal arrival of a tainted form of heroin in New Jersey, which has been linked to at least nine deaths and/or hospitalizations across that state in the past few months, as well as numerous others in the Northeastern section of the U.S.
The recent deaths have resulted from overdoses on heroin that has been laced with fentanyl, an odorless, tasteless synthetic chemical type of morphine that is often prescribed to those suffering from cancer. Fentanyl is especially dangerous, as it is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is completely undetectable. As such, it can be used to increase the potential high of heroin and remains imperceptible to the user.
According to Captain Stephen Jones, a spokesperson for the New Jersey State Police, fentanyl-laced heroin has caused at least seven seizures, overdoses, or deaths in New Jersey in recent weeks. Attorney General’s Office spokesperson Paul Loriquet reported that a number of these happened in Newark.
In addition, two deaths occurred in Ocean County last month, both of which have been tied to fentanyl-laced heroin labeled “Bud Light.” Fentanyl-laced heroin bearing a similar name was also implicated in a number of the 22 deaths that occurred in western Pennsylvania last month.
Per a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the approximately 1,000 deaths related to fentanyl-laced heroin overdoses in the U.S. between April of 2005 and March of 2007, 86 occurred in New Jersey. Last summer, fentanyl-laced heroin caused one death and three hospitalizations in Cape May County and authorities discovered at least one bag of heroin that was entirely composed of fentanyl.
Although officials have yet to report the discovery of any fentanyl-tainted heroin this year, they believe that the recent deaths illustrate its current proliferation in New Jersey, according to Special Agent Carl Kotowski, the head of the New Jersey division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Law enforcement authorities are currently investigating potential sources of the fentanyl-laced heroin, and Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato has suggested that there may be distributors in Trenton or Camden. With that said, if authorities identify a supect or suspects in connection with the manufacture, distribution, or dispensation of any of the tainted heroin responsible for the recent fatalities, these individuals will be subject to extremely harsh punishments under New Jersey Law.
According to the state’s criminal code, Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Deaths is governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9, which provides:
Any person who manufactures, distributes or dispenses methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide, phencyclidine or any other controlled dangerous substance classified in Schedules I or II, or any controlled substance analog thereof, in violation of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:35-5, is strictly liable for a death which results from the injection, inhalation or ingestion of that substance, and is guilty of a crime of the first degree.
As a result, an defendant convicted on charges for a violation of this statute could be facing a term of incarceration ranging from 10 to 20 years in New Jersey State Prison.
For more information pertaining to this case, access the following article: Fentanyl outbreak reaches NJ: Police say tainted heroin led to 9 overdoses, deaths