Pubdate: Tue, 06 Jun 2006
Source: Centre Daily Times (PA)
Copyright: 2006 Nittany Printing and Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


Effects Of Deadly Cocktail Felt In PA.

CHICAGO -- Federal agents, working in cooperation with the Mexican 
government, have closed down a lab in Mexico that might be the main 
source of the powerful painkiller fentanyl that has killed heroin 
users in Pennsylvania and seven other states, U.S. drug czar John 
Walters said Monday.

Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug 
Control Policy, said it's still not clear whether the fentanyl was 
mixed with heroin at the lab in Mexico or after it entered the United 
States. Fentanyl-laced cocaine also has turned up in some cities, he said.

He warned drug users that millions of deadly doses of fentanyl-laced 
heroin might still be on the streets. The mixture has caused at least 
100 confirmed deaths from Philadelphia to Chicago in recent months. 
Fentanyl might also be coming from other sources, he said.

"There may be more than one source," Walters said. "We think this is 
the principal source."

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is testing samples of 
fentanyl seized in a May 28 raid of a suspected 
fentanyl-manufacturing operation near the western city of Guadalajara 
but does not yet have confirmation that the drug is linked to the 
U.S. deaths, DEA spokesman Steve Robertson said.

"We hope to have a break in the case, but we're not sure this is it," 
Robertson said. "This is an ongoing investigation, and we're working 
very closely with local authorities."

Five men, all Mexican citizens, were arrested in connection with the 
May 28 raid, Robertson said.

"Through standard detective work we're looking to make ties into 
what's going on up here" in the United States, Robertson said.

Deaths from fentanyl-laced drugs have occurred in Illinois, Michigan, 
Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, Walters said.

Doctors prescribe fentanyl, a narcotic, as a painkiller for cancer 
patients and others in chronic pain. It's about 80 times more potent 
as a painkiller than morphine.

The drug is also many times stronger than heroin. An overdose can 
slow breathing to the point of death.

Among the people arrested in Mexico was a person Walters described as 
"the chemist." Walters said the size of the fentanyl operation made 
the bust extremely significant.

He said the fentanyl-laced heroin might have been used by dealers 
looking for a competitive advantage on the street, but inept mixing 
- -- or cutting -- of the drug into heroin made it deadly.

The DEA plans to gather police officers and drug enforcement agents 
for a national meeting on the fentanyl problem June 14 and 15 in 
Chicago, Robertson said.

Walters was in Chicago to release a new series of 
anti-methamphetamine advertisements in Spanish and English.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman