WNPR

Connecticut Braces for Powerful, Potentially Deadly Form of Heroin

May 13, 2016

Efforts to stem the tide of heroin overdoses in Connecticut could get more difficult if a powerful new heroin additive makes its way to the state.

W-18, as it's called, turned up first in Maine, and is responsible for a spate of recent overdoses in Massachusetts.

W-18 is a synthetic drug that toxicologists say is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, and 10,000 times more powerful than morphine. It was among several pain relieving compounds invented by Canadian doctors in the 1980s. The drug was never intended for humans, never tested in humans, and is not regulated by the U.S. government.

Given the strength of W-18, it has to be cut with heroin in precise measurements, making the potential for overdose extremely high.

W-18 laced heroin was recently discovered in Maine, and just last weekend, in Massachusetts, eight overdoses, two of which were fatal, were attributed to W-18. But has it come to Connecticut?

"If it truly is in Maine, than I think it is in Connecticut," said Dr. J. Craig Allen, medical director of Rushford, a substance abuse and addiction treatment provider. "There may be deaths that were attributed to heroin, that were due to the substance being mixed in with the heroin. We won't know that until the Chief Medical Examiner's Office sends the substances out, and it gets a report back. That could take weeks." 

Allen said what makes W-18 particularly alarming is that addicts will seek out W-18 laced heroin because of its potency and knowingly put themselves at risk of overdose or death.

"Your brain is telling you you need to get this high," Allen said. "You want to experience this high that you experienced once before. The scary part of all this is an addicted brain will go that direction like a moth to flame."

W-18 has also been reported in Pennsylvania and Florida.