HIGH POINT, N.C. -- All too often, we hear about deadly heroin overdoses, but what you probably have not heard is heroin is being laced with a drug that is 100 times more powerful than morphine. It's turning an already dangerous situation into one where death is nearly certain.
“There's so many babies dying from this,” said Alta Lineback. “I don’t feel complete without him,” said Donna Simpson. Their sons, Aaron Lineback and Dustin Simpson, were friends. They died just four months apart. “He was ashamed and embarrassed about it. He certainly didn't look like what I used to think a heroin addict looked like,” said Simpson. Sadly, they will likely be joined by others, with the surge of heroin laced with fentanyl.
“Since fentanyl has been mentioned in the same words with heroin, our overdose cases have gone through the roof,” said Captain Timothy Ellenberger of the High Point Police Department.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid prescribed to control pain.
“Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and up to 50 times more potent than heroin so it causes the euphoria very quickly but it also causes respiratory depression and can lead to death within minutes of taking it,” said Stacey Karl, a pharmacist at Triad Health Care Network.
“I don't know if it’s because more people are using heroin or the fentanyl makes it that much stronger,” said Ellenberger.
“So fentanyl, at least the ones they are using to mix with heroin, is a synthetic called acetyl fentanyl and they have been finding it in labs in Mexico,” said Karl.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has been issuing warnings about fentanyl and its analog acetyl fentanyl. In 2014, the year Dustin and Aaron died, there were over 700 reported overdose deaths, mostly in the eastern United States.
“The very first time you use it, if it doesn't kill you, that is your new path in life,” said Ellenberger.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the death numbers may be even higher because most coroner's offices and state crime labs do not test for it unless given a specific reason.
“We had a few samples come back pure fentanyl,” said Ellenberger.
Overdoses often go unreported because people are afraid of getting arrested and winding up at the court house, but instead of arresting overdose victims, High Point Police Department are helping them get treatment.
“We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem. We know better than that. So the best thing we can do is to treat those who need the treatment,” said Ellenberger.
Unfortunately, treatment does not guarantee cure.
“I have asked myself so many times if I could have done anything more. We offered him everything we could come up with. But it's the addict that has to make that decision,” said Simpson.
Dustin and Aaron both underwent treatment before fatally overdosing from heroin they purchased in High Point.
“The last thing I said to him was, ‘Have a good day. I love you,’” said Simpson.
“He told his fiance many times that this is what he did not want to do to his parents,” said Alta Lineback. “My child is gone because of a drug,” said Chris Lineback.
The families wish their sons would have never tried heroin that very first time. It created a lifetime addiction that took away their babies.
“He would never want to hurt us. He didn't want to hurt his family he loved us,” said Simpson. “Aaron knew that we loved him and we knew that Aaron loved us,” said Alta Lineback.
The parents tell FOX8 they are not sure if the batches Dustin and Aaron used were laced with fentanyl. The lab reports only listed general heroin toxicity.
If there is any bright spot, for the Simpson and Lineback families, it is that seven people are alive today because both Dustin and Aaron were organ donors.