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Amid Warnings, Heroin Getting More Potent in Ocean County

Increased potency, dangerous drug dealers make for lethal combination

Amid Warnings, Heroin Getting More Potent in Ocean County
Camden County officials this week warned of a potent batch of heroin that led to five overdoses within 24 hours. But Ocean County largely topped that earlier this year when nine people died over an eight day period in April.

Those five victims are among the 89 people – as of Thursday afternoon – to die in Ocean County this year from overdoses. Last year, the death toll was 53.

"To me, all heroin is poison," said Al Della Fave, a career law enforcement officer who is now spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutors Office. "Purity levels are at an all-time high."

The warning from Camden County has prompted a statewide discussion on heroin purity. While it is universally agreed-upon that injecting heroin puts one's life at risk, lethal dosages are becoming more common. Three New Jersey counties – Ocean, Monmouth and Cape May – have been identified by state officials as the most at-risk areas.

In the three-county area, deaths have spiked as the state has started education campaigns.

"The three counties involved in the first wave of our release have seen a particularly high spike in heroin over doses and deaths," said Angelo M. Valente, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, speaking of one such campaign.

Lethal Doses Becoming More Common

Whether someone will take a fatal dose often depends on a few factors, Della Fave said, including how much of the drug a person takes, and whether it is mixed with other substances, such as alcohol or prescriptions drugs.

"Quality control," Della Fave said, is non-existent, as drug dealers use a wide variety of cutting agents to prepare their product for sale on the street. But despite most drug dealers branding their product in an attempt to guarantee its quality, the product can change within hours and users end up buying something different – and potentially even more deadly – than they may have expected.

In one case this year in which a suspected drug dealer from Atlantic City was charged and indicted in the death of a heroin user from Barnegat, investigators say they found the dealer switched products within hours.

Authorities say Rasan S. McGee, 22, of Atlantic City, sold heroin branded as "Boom" to Steven Janson, 26, of Barnegat, in April. Janson died. But within hours, police say McGee, also known as "Money," was selling a different heroin batch known as "Stingray."

"We see it all the time," said Della Fave. "That's how fast they go through this stuff, and how quickly it changes. From dosage to dosage, it can be different."

Users are also flirting with disaster more often than not, authorities have warned.

"We had a [drug distribution] case here in Ocean County where, after we made the arrest, we found Googled directions on how to cut it," said Della Fave. "I can't fathom putting your life in the hands of someone like that."

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