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Pennsylvania

Deadly combination of cocaine, fentanyl 'changes the game'

Tom Fontaine
| Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, 5:27 p.m.
This DEA photo shows about 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is a potentially lethal dose of the prescription painkiller, especially when mixed with other drugs.
Courtesy of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration
This DEA photo shows about 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is a potentially lethal dose of the prescription painkiller, especially when mixed with other drugs.

Cocaine is getting a lot more dangerous.

Health and law enforcement officials in several states, including Pennsylvania, are warning that the drug is increasingly being laced with the highly addictive painkiller fentanyl, considered 100 times more powerful than morphine.

On Friday, an assistant director with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said after authorities seized its first batch of cocaine laced with fentanyl that the drug combination “changes the game” because it turns what he said was “typically considered to be a party drug” into a far more deadly and addictive substance.

The cocaine-fentanyl mix has been linked to deadly overdoses Georgia , New York , Cincinnati , Cleveland , Erie and elsewhere.

At least five reports released Monday by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office identified the cause in five deaths in June and July as “mixed-drug intoxication” or “combined drug poisoning” in which both cocaine and fentanyl were discovered in toxicology tests.

The reports did not say whether the overdose victims' died from using cocaine laced with fentanyl or whether they had used the drugs separately. The Allegheny County Health Department and Medical Examiner's Officer did not immediately respond to questions.

The Medical Examiner reported in April that toxicology reports in overdose deaths often involve more than one drug. In 2016, for the first time, fentanyl appeared more frequently in toxicology reports than heroin. Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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