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U.S. Attorney: Potent Batch Of Heroin Blamed In Nearly 2 Dozen ODs

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- U.S. Attorney David Hickton has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday after nearly two dozen non-fatal heroin overdoses have been reported in the area in the past couple of days.

The heroin epidemic locally has gotten worse because of a tainted batch of heroin now showing up.

Hickton says some of the more potent and tainted heroin carries the label "Piece of Mind," and other stamp bags are labeled "BULLETPROOF."

"We're in an epidemic of unprecedented proportions. We're losing greater than 120 people a day to drug poisoning, which has passed traffic accidents as the leading cause of death in this country as of 2009," Hickton said

Hickton says the majority of the overdose victims have been saved with Narcan.

State and local police are trying to pinpoint the source of the heroin.

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On Monday afternoon, in Washington County, two men and a woman overdosed in the parking lot of the Walmart store in South Fayette Township.

The men were found in a van with stamp bags nearby; the woman was found in a store bathroom.

At least a dozen non-fatal heroin overdoses have been reported in Washington County since the weekend. At least 15 similar drug overdoses were reported in Cambria County.

Hickton's news conference is set for 10 a.m. at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Gateway Rehab Medical Director Dr. Neil Capretto joined the "KDKA Morning News" to discuss the heroin epidemic.

He said it does not discriminate.

"[Heroin] is in every community from middle to upper-middle class, richest to poorest, and it does not discriminate," Capretto said.

Capretto said he is concerned with sharp rise in overdoses.

"When I finished my 1985, Allegheny County had 22 drug overdose deaths and we were concerned at that time. There were meetings, it was considered unacceptable. We're now at 349, that's just an incredible growth," he said.

Dr. Capretto said most new cases of heroin use start with a prescription drug addiction.

"[It] often even [starts] as early as middle school with use of prescription [drugs]," he said.

In Dr. Capretto's opinion, there needs to an entire community effort to stop the epidemic.

"When I was with David Hickton at the White House with the National Heroin Task Force this [past] summer, what they said was the cartels from Mexico are ramping up [production] and they think the worst is yet to come," he said.

Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.

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