May 25, 2019
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Overdoses spur Belfast police warning about possible new strain of dangerous drugs in city

BELFAST, Maine — Reports of drug overdoses Friday and Saturday in the city, one of which was fatal, prompted police to issue a warning about the possible presence of a new batch of dangerously potent or bad drugs in the area.

“We don’t know what we’re dealing with at this point, but it could be a situation where we’ve gotten some bad substances here,” Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden said Monday. “We want people to be careful.”

A 26-year-old man was found dead on Saturday at his Primrose Street home after allegedly taking drugs that police haven’t yet identified, McFadden said. Also, a 15-year-old boy had to be taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor on Friday evening by LifeFlight of Maine helicopter after overdosing on drugs in Belfast Common park. Although the teen was hospitalized for days in intensive care and even placed on life support at one point, his condition had improved by Monday and he was back at home, the chief said.

While toxicology reports have not come back and the overdoses remain under investigation, McFadden said he believes the drugs might have been bath salts or heroin. He said that there is a possibility that there is a new strain of dangerous drugs or a bad batch of drugs in the illicit supply chain.

“It could be two completely unrelated incidents, or there could be a relationship. We don’t know,” he said. “But I think it’s appropriate that the public’s made aware.”

Dr. Norman Dinerman, an emergency medicine physician at EMMC, said Tuesday that although doctors usually don’t know precisely what drugs were taken until receiving the results of a toxicology test, drug users know even less.

“When it comes to illicit drugs, truth in advertising doesn’t apply,” he said. “We oftentimes find that people take a mixture of drugs, and it is perilously difficult for us to know precisely what they’ve taken until toxicology testing comes back. I think the larger issue is that the person on the street really never knows what they’re getting, and that’s really so worrisome with this.”

He said that abusers, their families and their communities all pay the price for drug abuse.

“It’s very sobering and it’s very sad,” he said.

In May, Portland police, fire and public health officials issued a warning about heroin use after seeing four overdoses and one suspected overdose fatality in a 24-hour period. City officials said that heroin use in Portland had increased dramatically in recent months and that they suspect addicts are using heroin as a replacement for OxyContin.

At that time, testing of the drug did not indicate that it was more potent than average but officials instead suggested the increase in overdoses was related to increased drug use.

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