Harm Enhancement: Adulterated Batches of Heroin Killing Users in Chicago, on East Coast 4/28/06

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One of the perils of prohibition is playing out among heroin users in Chicago and on the East Coast, especially around Philadelphia, and it is the users who are paying the price. At least a dozen Chicago-area heroin users have died of overdoses in the past few weeks, while in the Delaware-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area, at least 11 more have died in the last two weeks, according to local press reports, while dozens more have suffered non-fatal overdoses in both areas.

The New Jersey State Police and the Pennsylvania Department of Health both issued warnings about the wave of overdoses apparently emanating from Camden, New Jersey, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. In Chicago and its suburbs, police and health authorities are also on high alert. They are linking the wave of overdoses to batches of heroin cut with Fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic 80 times more powerful than morphine. The drug is usually prescribed in a skin patch to treat chronic pain in cancer patients, but is known on the street as "China White."

In a drug control system where the sale of substances like heroin is prohibited and thus unregulated, there are no mechanisms to prevent the adulteration of drugs by distributors too careless or too unscrupulous to protect the health of their clientele. In a drug control system where substances like heroin are available through a regulated market, quality-control provisions would prevent such occurrences. The people who stuck needles full of what they thought was heroin in the arms and died are victims of their own choices, but they are also victims of drug prohibition.

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Issue #433 -- 4/28/06

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