Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Addict Describes His Dose of Reality 'Lucky' to Survive Powerful Heroin

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Addict Describes His Dose of Reality 'Lucky' to Survive Powerful Heroin

Article excerpt

There, but for the grace of God, but for the warning of a heroin dealer, but for the quick action of his mother, a Beaver County man would be among those in the region who fatally overdosed on a powerful batch of fentanyl-laced heroin.

The man in his late 20s, who asked not to be identified, overdosed on the deadly drug a week ago today. Currently, he is a patient at Gateway Rehabilitation Center, where at least two other patients entered after overdosing on the potent drug that has killed as many as 22 in four counties since Jan. 19.

"This is the closest I came to dying," said the man, who has been injecting heroin for six years. "With this being my sixth overdose, God wants me alive for a reason. If it happens again, I'm not coming back. I do feel lucky, I feel blessed."

His brush with death occurred the day before he was scheduled to enter Gateway. He said he had been in rehab "a few times before," and wanted heroin that day so he wouldn't be in the throes of withdrawal when he entered Gateway.

At his worst during his years of addiction, the man had used between 50 and 75 bags of heroin a day. His tolerance for the drug was so high that most recently he had been shooting up six bags at a time.

On this day, he met his drug connection on the North Side and bought a bundle -- 10 bags -- for $60. The stamp bags were white with red letters spelling "Theraflu." At that point, there was no word on the street or in the media that bags so branded contained fentanyl-laced heroin.

"If I had known what it was, I wouldn't have bought it. [The dealer] said to me, 'Be careful. These are potent. Please don't do your normal. Do less,' " the man recalled.

He thought that was strange because the dealer "never said anything like that before. When I was driving home I was wondering, 'Why did he tell me that?' I thought it was weird. Usually, they don't care, they just want your money."

At home, in a locked bathroom, he considered shooting up his usual six bags at one time but instead decided to heed the dealer's warning. …

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