Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Three heroin overdoses reported in Amherst in less than two hours Sunday night

By Colby Sears

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Collegian File Photo

(Collegian File Photo)

The Amherst Fire Department responded to three non-fatal heroin overdoses within a two-hour span Sunday night, continuing a string of incidents that public safety officials are describing as a spike in local area overdoses over the past week.

Emergency responders administered the opioid overdose-reversing drug Narcan in one case and rushed all three patients to Cooley Dickinson Hospital by ambulance. The incidents occurred at homes on East Hadley Road, Northeast St. and Summer St.

Fire Chief Walter Nelson said that the first call came around 9 p.m. and the last at 10:45 p.m., both of which Amherst Police responded to, according to MassLive.

He said that it is not unusual for his department to respond to drug overdoses, though having to respond to three incidents within such a short period of time is uncommon.

Nelson told MassLive that paramedics administered nasal Narcan to one patient and that the medication had already been administered to a second patient before technicians arrived to the scene. Narcan was not used in the third case, he said, claiming the decision of whether or not to use the drug is based on procedure involving a patient’s medical condition.

Narcan blocks opioids, which can slow breathing to the point of death in an overdose, and restores breathing to normal when administered nasally. All three patients were brought to the hospital for further treatment.

Sunday’s responses come after a week in which heroin-related overdoses have surged.

Dr. Niels Rathlev, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Baystate Medical Center, told reporters Monday that the healthcare system has treated 40 overdose patients in three days, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Several of those patients have died.

Rathlev said that treating 40 patients in that short of a time frame was “exceptional,” and that it’s not proportional to what the system normally sees, per the Gazette.

Local authorities have heard about a potentially lethal batch of heroin in the area that may be related to these incidents. The surge in overdoses began mid-week, according to a statement issued by Northwestern district attorney David E. Sullivan.

According to Nelson, batches like these will sometimes hit the street after a major drug bust occurs, as dealers try to fill the void in the drug supply.

“Anecdotally, we’ve been seeing that there is some bad stuff out there. Hospitals have been seeing an uptick in overdoses in the general area and the Pioneer Valley. Something is going on out there and it’s not good,” he told MassLive.

With the help of the Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force and the Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force, Springfield police confiscated nearly 22,000 bags of heroin in a raid on a Springfield home last Thursday.

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. also warned the public of a potentially dangerous batch of heroin in the Southbridge area after two non-fatal overdoses were reported there Thursday night.

Law enforcement personnel are continuing to investigate the spike in overdoses in the Pioneer Valley but have yet to identify anything associated with the dangerous batch.

Colby Sears can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colbysears.

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