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By Brian Fraga
Standard-Times staff writer
October 02, 2008 6:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD - A 49-year-old woman died this week of a suspected heroin overdose, raising the total to 10 local drug-related deaths since mid-July.
The woman was found dead Monday in a Dartmouth Street residence. Police found drug paraphernelia at the scene, according to New Bedford police spokesman Lt. Jeffrey P. Silva.
The death was the 12th suspected heroin overdose in New Bedford since Jan. 1, and the 10th since a 39-year-old woman was found dead July 19 in a Hillman Street residence.
The wave of fatal overdoses raised concerns among police, drug treatment centers and health advocates that a lethal batch of heroin was circulating through the city.
But recent samples of heroin seized by police and sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration for tests have not been determined to be of a higher purity or laced with a lethal additive such as fentanyl, Lt. Silva said.
In two-thirds of the fatal overdoses, relatives told police the victims had been clean for several months before turning again to drugs. It is possible the fatalities are occurring because some addicts, after months away, have lost their ability to cope with shooting heroin.
"There is really no upside having to report on overdose deaths," Lt. Silva said. "The only positive thing here is that we are at least not seeing any indication of heroin of an extremely high purity or made with lethal cutting agents."
Still, police continue to investigate the spike in fatal overdoses. Heroin seized during street-level arrests will continue to be sent to the DEA for tests.
In late July, police began notifying hospitals, medical clinics and outreach workers after three people, in their 20s and 30s, were found dead of heroin overdoses within 10 days.
On July 24, less than a week after a woman was found dead on Hillman Street, the body of a 24-year-old Swampscott man was found lying on his back in a wooded area at Riverside Park. The next day, a 31-year-old New Bedford woman was found dead in a room at the Days Inn on Hathaway Road.
A local fisherman died Aug. 10 of an apparent overdose in a Jouvette Street residence. On Sept. 2, two people were found dead in a Thompson Street residence, four days after two men were found dead under a footbridge near Route 6.
Heroin abuse has long been a problem in New Bedford. Citing the high incidence of overdoses and use in the area, the state Department of Public Health last year selected the Seven Hills Behavioral Center of New Bedford to administer Narcan, a drug used to reverse heroin overdoses.
Advocates have said the fatalities underscore a need for more education and outreach programs to address addicts' needs for treatment, housing and prevention.
The city recently received a federal grant of $125,000 to establish an awareness campaign and a plan to reduce opioid overdoses. A series of public planning meetings are scheduled to discuss the issue.

3,110 Posts
Awww too bad. I don't have much sympathy for hardcore drug addicts. No one held a gun to their head. Well in SOME RARE circumstance, but for the most part 99% of them know drugs are bad!
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