Death toll from lethal batch of heroin rises to 9 in Philadelphia

Nine people have died from a lethal batch of heroin, up from initial reports of six, according to Philadelphia police.

In a 36-hour span, from 8:30 a.m. Saturday to 8 p.m. Sunday, police reported nine fatal overdoses, mostly in Kensington and North Philadelphia. Over the same period of time, at least four people were saved in Kensington alone when emergency responders administered doses of Naloxone, an anti-overdose drug.

The dead include seven men, who ranged in age from 24 to their mid-40s, police said. Most of them were discovered on or near Kensington Avenue, authorities said. Of the two women, a 36-year-old was found in the Fairhill section. The other woman, 34, was discovered in Port Richmond.

Philadelphia is on pace to reach 900 fatal drug overdoses in 2016, reports indicate. That’s more than three times the city’s homicide rate.

Metroreported Monday that police are investigating a particularly potent batch of heroin that has been circulating through the city for the last month, and may be laced with other drugs.

Fox 29 reported that police confiscated two “stamps,” or brands of heroin: one called Powerball, and another with the image of a devil printed on the bag. Investigators believe it could be laced with a a synthetic opioid nicknamed “pink” or “pinky” that has been linked to several deaths across the U.S. The federal government recently moved to temporarily ban the painkiller, which is labelled as U-47700.

This weekend’s fatal overdoses follow a spike of nonfatal overdoses last month. On Nov. 17, nearly 50 heroin users overdosed and were treated, mostly in Kensington and North Philly areas. The neighborhoods include pockets that are notorious for serving as open-air drug markets, where bags and used needles litter the street and sidewalks.

Police are still investigating the November spike in overdoses. The city usually reports about three to four overdoses a day.