Local News

Warning issued after 'dangerous drug' found in at least three NC deaths

Posted February 19, 2014

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

— Medical examiners found acetyl fentanyl, a synthetic drug that is up to five times more potent than heroin, present in the bodies of at least three people who died recently in Sampson, Person and Transylvania counties, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

Their final death certificates are pending, DHHS said.

"It is important for law enforcement, medical professionals and our citizens to be aware that this dangerous drug is in North Carolina," acting state Health Director Robin Gary Cummings said in a statement. "Acetyl fentanyl is another addition to a growing list of synthetic drugs and represents a serious threat to public health."

Acetyl fentanyl, known on the street as "White China," is not available as a prescription in the U.S.

Last June, the CDC issued an alert to public health agencies, state laboratories, medical examiners, coroners, and emergency departments to be on the lookout for the drug. The CDC also advised emergency departments and emergency medical services to ensure that they have adequate supply of naloxone, an emergency antidote to opioid overdose.

DHHS officials say overdose deaths in North Carolina have increased by 300 percent since 1999.

The alert came after Rhode Island officials reported that 14 overdose deaths from acetyl fentanyl between March and June 2013. Since then, the drug has been linked to additional deaths in Pennsylvania, Louisiana and now North Carolina.


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  • Minerva Feb 20, 2014

    Not all addicts are "stupid", "losers", or start out as "criminals", as some of these posts have labeled them. Often opiate abuse may begin with a simple script from a Dr. Ever been prescribed Codeine for a bad cough? Vicodin for a toothache, a sore throat, the flu, a broken bone, or other injury? I have. Ever had major surgery that required pain meds for weeks and sometimes months afterwards as you went through a painful recovery process? I have. I am not "stupid", a "loser", or considered a "criminal", but I am a recovering opiate addict. And yes, it IS a disease, a progressive one that many times can lead to death without intervention and treatment.

    I haven't smoked in years. I only have a glass of wine once in a blue moon. I am physically active, don't have high blood pressure or cholesterol or diabetes even though those things run in my family. I "choose" to live a fairly healthy lifestyle to prevent those diseases. I did not "choose" to become an addict, but I became one.

  • Geez Louise Feb 19, 2014

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    --Nope, that's how I quit, knowing it was my choice.

  • Geez Louise Feb 19, 2014

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    --So it's not the person's fault they do what they do. They have a "devastating disease". Right....

  • jacqueline2913 Feb 19, 2014

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    as a former addict, you should know that addiction is in FACT a disease. As a recovering addict, with a job in the substance abuse field, I can assure you of this.

  • Catherine West Feb 19, 2014
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    I am very happy that you were able to quit whatever drug you were using with no problem but some drugs are physically addictive. People that are addicted are no longer using for fun, they are using just to feel some form of normalcy. From what you said, it doesn't appear that you progressed to this stage. Please speak for yourself and don't generalize this devastating disease.

  • jamespatrickokeefe Feb 19, 2014

    Hey folks,
    Please excuse my ignorance, but is this drug used like heroine, is it injected? Is that the primary transport mechanism for heroine. Sorry, just want to talk with my daughter about it.

  • beef Feb 19, 2014

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    Who cares what he died of? He did himself in and fortunately there are tens of thousands lined up to take his place. Maybe some of them will learn from his mistakes.

  • davido Feb 19, 2014

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    Actually no. Based on prior reports that I probably read here, PSH died of old fashioned "regular" heroin. You know, the healthy kind!

  • tri123 Feb 19, 2014

    Half of people who use illegal drugs have a serious mental illness, and of course treatment for mental illness is so readily and immediately affordable that there's no reason THAT should happen (that was sarcasm). Many people (I know it is most for cigarettes, but I'm not sure about illegal drugs) become addicted when they are underage and may not fully understand the consequences. In any case, it is sad when someone is addicted and even sadder when they die, and we are human beings with compassion who would like to see others success, survive, and thrive. That's why we care.

  • MB4579 Feb 19, 2014

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    It's not a misled ideal. It's actually a requirement known as EMTALA. Any hospital that accepts payments from the DHHS (which is nearly every hospital in the country) is required to provide emergency medical treatment to everyone who needs it. Full stop. No exceptions.

    People with addictions deserve to be treated with the same care and concern as all others who receive medical treatment. It has very little to do with "your money" and everything to do with the Hippocratic oath and being a generally compassionate human being. If you believe otherwise, then please, please, please never go into the healthcare field or any sort of social work.