Narcotics officers believe a dangerous batch of heroin may be to blame for a surge in overdoses in Philadelphia's worst drug-stricken neighborhoods.
Detectives tell NBC10 nearly 50 people overdosed Thursday in the department's East Division, an area commonly called The Badlands, that encompasses Kensington and parts of North Philadelphia.
So far, there are no reported deaths from the spike. Many may have been brought back to consciousness using the overdose reversal drug naloxone.
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Police are conducting lab tests to determine if a so-called 'bad batch' of heroin is on the street.
Heroin in Philadelphia is some of the purest in the nation ranging between 80 and 90 percent, officials explained earlier this year as part of our special investigation into the epidemic.
Sometimes, the drugs are cut with dangerous chemicals like rat poison. In other cases, much stronger synthetic opioids like fentanyl or new lab-cooked derivatives are mixed in to produce a stronger high -- often with deadly consequences.
Deaths from fentanyl skyrocketed by 636 percent over the past year in Philadelphia. In May, the city's narcotic's chief said his officers were monitoring a potential infiltration of W-18, another synthetic painkiller that, when mixed with heroin, can be 10,000 times stronger than morphine.
Overdose surges have also been reported in Ohio and parts of the Midwest recently.
People taking opioids can quickly grow tolerant to the highs prescription painkillers and heroin provide. Excruciatingly painful withdrawals follow. These falls get worse with each cycle so users seek out stronger highs, putting them at further risk with every score.
Over the course of our special investigation, heroin users in the throes of withdrawal explained they would, at times, seek out the strongest drug available -- sometimes flocking toward heroin batches that caused others to overdose.
The overdose surge came on the same day the U.S. Surgeon General asked the public not to characterize addiction as "a character flaw."
Dr. Vivek Murthy called for increased access to treatment to help those suffering from the disease.