Expert warns of tainted drugs after Litchfield overdoses

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LITCHFIELD -

Opioids more potent than heroin may have played a role in four suspected heroin overdose deaths that happened within the last nine days in Litchfield County, an expert says.

State police say they found what appeared to be heroin paraphernalia at the scene of each fatality. 

Amy Sedgwick, the director of clinical operations at Mountainside Treatment Center, says altered, laced or tainted drugs might be to blame.

Although investigators say they have not yet determined whether the drugs were contaminated with other substances, Sedgwick says it's growing more common.

"We're seeing that the composition of heroin today is much different than it was years ago," Sedgwick says. "Heroin today is laced with or replaced with fentanyl or carfentanyl, and they're lethal in minute amounts."

Police are urging residents to look out for and report potential overdose symptoms. They include slow or stopped breathing, pinpoint pupils and blue skin, lips or fingernails.

Maria Coutant-Skinner is the executive director of the McCall Center for Behavioral Health in Torrington. She's also co-chair of the Litchfield County Opiate Task Force, a grassroots group of volunteers aimed at countering the opioid epidemic. 

She says it's important to reach out to addicts to help them because only about one in 10 people who could benefit from treatment actually access it.

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