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Wednesday 22 November 2017

Gardai fear more deaths as 'pure' heroin kills two

Ralph Riegel and Niall O'Connor

GARDAI fear more deaths from a batch of high-grade heroin which has killed two young men and left seven others fighting for their lives.

The batch is so pure it is lethal to users who are more used to a lower-grade opiate.

It is suspected that one kilo of high-purity heroin -- worth up to €200,000 -- was smuggled into Cork last weekend, then cut and sold within days by dealers.

However, drug users were unaware that the heroin was of vastly higher purity than their normal supply -- with deadly consequences.

The scale of the tragedy emerged when nine ambulances were called to at least five separate addresses in 24 hours to deal with suspected drug-related collapses.

The two dead men have been named locally as Gary O'Sullivan (30), of Blackrock Road, and Gavin Thompson (25), of Wolfe Tone Street, Gurranabraher. Mr O'Sullivan died just two months after a female friend lost her life to a suspected drugs overdose.

Cork emergency consultant Dr Chris Luke said: "We think all nine cases have involved the intravenous injection of heroin.

"We have two deaths and two near-deaths, where people were saved by hospital teams -- and five others who were ill as a result of taking . . . a very pure form of heroin.

Alcohol

"This is obviously a much more pure and concentrated form of heroin than has been in the city before this week."

Health Service Executive (South) addiction services director David Lane urged anyone concerned about a possible drug-related illness to seek immediate medical attention.

He said: "The HSE has alerted medical professionals in the region to be alert for patients presenting as a result of heroin misuse."

Post-mortem examinations were scheduled to be carried out on both men at Cork University Hospital (CUH).

The HSE warned users to be aware that injecting drugs can increase the risk of overdose, and that an unfamiliar drug supply poses a serious risk.

Mr Lane also warned that combining drugs with alcohol should be avoided at all costs -- and that users should also be acutely aware of changes to their drug-tolerance levels.

Garda drug unit officers were last night checking with all known heroin users and suppliers in the Cork area. They warned anyone who bought heroin over the past fortnight not to use the drugs.

They also said that while there were no indications the super-heroin had been distributed outside Cork, heroin users in Dublin, Limerick and Waterford are also urged to exercise caution.

All seven being treated in CUH for suspected heroin overdoses were last night in a critical but stable condition.

Irish Independent

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