CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Law enforcement issued an emergency warning to the public late Thursday: A deadly brand of heroin mixed with synthetic opioid fentanyl is circulating in Harrison County and has caused at least four overdoses in less than 24 hours.
The drug is packaged in bags that are stamped in blue ink with the inscription “Jungle Killer,” according to Bridgeport Police Chief John Walker and Clarksburg Police Chief Robert Hilliard.
They warned anyone who finds stamp bags of the drug — even empty ones — to report it immediately, but to STAY AWAY from the bags. If the drug makes contact with the skin, it can be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause death. And that’s a warning they want to get out to all law enforcement, firefighters, other first responders and medical personnel in the area.
Two individuals have overdosed in Clarksburg, one in Bridgeport and one in Anmoore since 3 a.m. Thursday, Walker said during a press conference about 18 1/2 hours later.
All four were revived with the emergency drug Narcan, according to Walker, who also serves as chairman of the Greater Harrison Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.
It marks the first time fentanyl has been detected in an overdose in Harrison County, though not the first time in the state or the region. Last month, heroin laced with fentanyl was believed to have caused more than 25 overdoses in the Huntington area in a matter of hours.
And before that, authorities had reported similar overdose waves attributable to fentanyl in Ohio and other states.
Fentanyl is similar to morphine, but “50 to 100 times more potent,” Walker said.
Hilliard, also a member of the task force board, and Walker said authorities wanted to get the word out to warn the public of the danger, even if that meant those responsible for distributing it go into hiding.
Their hope is to prevent someone from dying.
But if an overdose death is attributed to heroin-laced fentanyl, Walker said it would be prosecuted as murder.
However, they declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.
Harrison Prosecutor Rachel Romano noted this “unfortunately is becoming an all-too common situation that we as a community are faced with.”
“Our first responders are doing everything they can to try and save lives, and every day they are able to save many lives with the use of Narcan, but sadly, they can’t save everyone,” Romano said.
“We will win this battle, and the answer is through prevention and education,” Romano said. “But we must also take a forceful and united stance against those who are providing these lethal cocktails.
“It can’t be tolerated, and when we have drug dealers supplying lethal combinations, we must try and pursue those cases as homicides,” she said. “The Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the local law enforcement community are in agreement and we are all committed to trying to combat this problem and send a strong message that we are not going to tolerate this in our community.”