Heroin kills two men in Cork
Gardaí have recovered a small quantity of heroin during raids across Cork last night aimed at trying to trace a potent batch of the drug believed to be responsible for two deaths.
Another six men have also suffered severe ill-effects in recent days.
Drug squad detectives raided some 16 flats and houses across the city last night and carried out searches, seizing a small quantity of heroin. It was sent to the State Laboratory for analysis last night.
Initial tests showed the heroin was not contaminated but further tests have to be conducted to establish whether it is part of the particularly strong batch which gardaí and health professionals believe was responsible for the two deaths.
No arrests were made but gardaí are continuing to carry out searches both on the north side and south side of Cork this morning in a bid to locate any more quantities of the drug and take it out of circulation.
The raids came after the Health Service Executive and medical professionals last night issued a warning to heroin and other opiate users users in Cork to be careful after two men died from suspected heroin overdoses in the city.
A 30-year old man was found unconscious in his flat at St Joseph’s View, Blackrock Road at about 8.20pm on Thursday. Paramedics tried to revive him for 40 minutes but without success and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
It is understood the man was found near needles and drug-taking equipment. While gardaí are awaiting the results of postmortem toxicology tests, they believe he died from a heroin overdose.
The second death took place at about 3am yesterday at a house on the north side of the city. A 26-year-old man, originally from Gurranebraher, took ill while visiting a friend and despite efforts by paramedics to save him, he died at the scene.
It is understood that emergency staff were called to deal with two other suspected heroin overdoses in the city since Thursday. Both patients remain in critical condition at Cork University Hospital.
According to Dr Chris Luke, emergency medical consultant at Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital, a further six people have been treated in Cork hospitals for suspected opiate-related illnesses in the past 24 hours.
“The feedback we are getting from the pre-hospital emergency service is that there’s been a flurry of activity with 10 callouts to suspected drug overdoses in the past 24 hours with two proving fatal, two near deaths and six other incidents,” said Dr Luke.
“We’re going to have to wait days, if not weeks, for toxicology tests. But it would seem to be caused by heroin, given that it seems needles and other drug paraphenalia were found nearby in some cases, so we are very concerned for the opiate-using community here in Cork.
“We have to wait for toxicology tests but it’s likely that what is being sold as heroin is very strong and very pure so we would urge people not to inject heroin or if they are going to use the drug, to use clean needles and not to be alone when they are injecting,” he said.
Dr Luke said that although two men had died from heroin overdoses at a house in Cork last Christmas, two suspected heroin deaths and two near fatalities within 24 hours were highly unusual in Cork and marked a spike in heroin deaths for the city.
Garda sources said they believe there are about 500 heroin users in Cork city with the incidences of heroin use increasing over the past 10 years. Previously, heroin use in Cork had been confined to a small number of addicts.
David Lane, of HSE South addiction services, said the health service was anxious to get out a warning about a possible strong batch of heroin in Cork as quickly as possible after consulting the emergency services, consultants and the Garda.
“We want to get the message out on to the streets as quickly as we can and we’ve already been in contact with voluntary agencies such as the Simon Community and the Vincent de Paul who may have an involvement with some of those using heroin,” he said.
Last month two young men, Michael Coleman (22) and Liam Coffey (22), died from a drugs overdose in Kinsale, Co Cork, but gardaí stressed yesterday they believed both of those deaths were due to ecstasy and were not linked to the suspected heroin deaths this week.