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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Potent Synthetic Being Sold As Heroin Causes 3 Vt. Deaths

The Vermont Department of Health confirmed Thursday that three deaths in Addison County were caused by overdoses of pure Fentanyl.

In a release, the department said that "Fentanyl is an opioid drug that is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, and much deadlier."

The Vermont State Police said Wednesday that they are aware that the powerful prescription painkiller used in hospitals is being sold on the street as heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl and heroin laced with the drug have been responsible for numerous deaths in the Northeast in recent weeks, including more than a dozen in the Pittsburgh area, at least 22 deaths in Rhode Island, and a number of people in the Buffalo, N.Y. area last summer.

There was speculation after his death that actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman died as a result of fentanyl-laced heroin, but police said that was not the case.

In Vermont, police said the drug is being packaged and sold as heroin.

The Vermont State Police said in a release about the presence of the drug that "injecting Fentanyl, or any drug not prescribed by a medical practitioner, can be lethal and will most likely lead to overdose and/or death."

Police are still investigating the source of the drug.

Updated Feb. 5 1:55 p.m. to include information about three deaths in Addison County.