Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

 

 

Devastating: John Courtney, 21, a talented footballer once tipped to to be the next Alan Shearer, lying dead and clutching the syringe of heroin that killed him.

Devastating: John Courtney, 21, a talented footballer once tipped to to be the next Alan Shearer, lying dead and clutching the syringe of heroin that killed him.

The inability of a drug user to know what has actually gone into the drug they are taking remains, to me, one of the strongest reasons to avoid using illicit drugs, and also, to protect those for whom two decades of “Just Say No” clearly hasn’t had any effect at all, the best reason for their decriminalisation, supply under controlled circumstances, not to mention taxing them.

Unlike smoking cannabis – where one can actually see the raw material, if not know its strength – taking a pill, powder or injecting a concoction is always a case of Russian roulette.

The popular party drug cocaine, for example, is nearly always supplied in an adulterated form. The most commonly used products to ‘cut’ cocaine are baking powder, lactose, mannitol, lidocaine or benzocaine. (That’s the stuff you put on sore teeth, with mimics cocaine’s nose-numbing effect, thus fooling the user into believing they’re getting a better quality dose of cocaine.) It can also be cut with other stimulants products like methamphetamine.

It is not unheard of for cocaine or heroin to be cut with a variety of products that it would be generally be considered unwise to put up y0ur nose or into your bloodstream.

These include any other whitish powder, which may have unexpected side effects, such as laxatives, for example, and in one famously awful incident, laundry-grade powdered nappy cleaner.

 

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Over the last couple of years warnings also went out that almost a third to a half of the cocaine circulating the US, Canada, (and maybe the world) was contaminated with a (potentially) poisonous veterinary de-worming agent called levamisole which had already killed several people and made many more people sick.

Levamisole causes a condition called agranulocytosis which means that it kills white blood cells which are a necessary part of your body’s immune system and prevent small things like a sore in the mouth from escalating into deadly infection.

In addition to temporarily AIDS-ifying your immune system, levamisole may also make cocaine more cardiotoxic and increase risk of seizures, meaning that it has three potential ways of killing you.

So if you’re a cocaine user and you experience thrush (especially of the mouth), sores that won’t heal or other skin infections, high fever, or flu-like/pneumonia symptoms you need to get to the quack fast – and quote this article.

On the other hand, you might not need to tell the doc about your problem in any detail, as another dead giveaway sign is that your nose and ears turn purple and drop off. The effect is so common that media outlets in the USA have christened it “flesh eating cocaine”.

Although pure, laboratory quality LSD has a wide margin of safety, street LSD may be laced with phencyclidine (PCP), commonly known as “angel dust,” “killer weed,” and “rocket fuel.”

PCP is a much more dangerous hallucinogen. As a result, tainted samples make street-sold LSD (as well as other drugs) especially unpredictable. Even with pure LSD, people can experience “bad trips,” with feelings of confusion, terror, anxiety, depression, and/or paranoia lasting up to several hours. In some cases, this extreme agitation has led to accidental death or suicide as people panic and attempt to flee from their hallucinations.

Anyhow, if that’s not enough to put you off, CNN now report that Dr. Karl Williams says he normally sees three or four deaths from drug overdoses in a typical week as the chief medical examiner in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. But in the past week, he saw 15 – men and women, of various ethnicities, ranging in age from 22 to 53. All of them appear to have been heroin users who instead received a mix of heroin and fentanyl, a powerful narcotic used to treat cancer patients’ pain, Williams told CNN.”This is pretty clearly somebody manufacturing fentanyl and selling it as heroin.”

The deaths Williams has recorded are among nearly two dozen in western Pennsylvania linked to a heroin-fentanyl mix, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Monday. The “extremely dangerous and potentially lethal” combination has killed 22 people in six counties, Kane said in a written statement.

“We are working with the Allegheny County Police Department, the Pittsburgh Police, and their counterparts in the region to get this deadly mix of heroin off the streets of Western Pennsylvania, and to arrest and prosecute anyone caught selling, distributing, and producing these drugs,” her statement said.

Williams said fentanyl can be 10-100 times more potent than morphine, the base molecule in heroin, and it’s only distributed as a powder when someone is manufacturing it illegally. The drug is being distributed in bags marked “Income Tax,” “Bud Ice” and “Theraflu, Williams said.

“This is not accidental. Somebody is deliberately trying to make a big batch of fentanyl,” he said. “It is not an extraordinarily complex molecule to synthesize, and you can find instructions on the Internet. It does not take a sophisticated chemist to do this.”

It’s not the first time that fentanyl has turned up on the streets of Pittsburgh. In 1988, Williams said, 17 people died when a chemist distributed fentanyl as heroin.

And in 2006, in Philadelphia, 269 people were killed by fentanyl overdoses, the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs said. The agency raised new alarms about fentanyl in July, blaming it for 50 deaths in Pennsylvania by mid-2013.

People: be careful out there.

stabbingIt is deeply distressing that an American student brandishing two knives stabbed 20 teenagers and a security guard in a bloody rampage in the classrooms and hallways of a Pennsylvania high school Wednesday.

At least four fellow students were critically injured in the assault at Franklin Regional High School, said Thomas Seefeld, chief of police in Murrysville, an outer suburb of Pittsburgh.

Stabbing is a hideous, violent, destructive act, causing terrible trauma and it is often deadly. The casual carrying of knives by “street kids” is a modern plague.

But it has to be asked: how many of those 20 would now definitely be dead if the assailant had been carrying guns, and especially a semi-automatic weapon. And how many more children might have been shot?

As Alfred Hitchcock once goulishly remarked, it is actually quite difficult to stab someone to death. You have to be next to your victim, the would is generally cleaner and more compact, and the blade needs to access a major organ or artery.

The pro-gun lobby often remarks “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. This event – tragic as it is –  nevertheless shows how hollow and disingenuous those remarks are. The nature of guns make them more deadly, and more in need of control.

The 16-year-old boy who has been charged with the attack was identified as Alex Hribal. He had allegedly made a threatening phone call to a fellow student the night before.

AFP incident report follows:

Hribal arrested.

Hribal arrested.

(Hribal) walked down a hallway wielding two knives eight to 10 inches (up to 25 centimeters) long, stabbing fellow pupils and the guard as they began arriving for the school day, police said.

Panicked students rushed for the exit and one reportedly set off the fire alarm, but 20 pupils and one male security guard were injured, mostly in the chest and stomach, officials confirmed.

The school principal and another member of staff overpowered the suspect, who was arrested within five minutes of police officers being alerted by radio, police said.

The motive of the attack was not immediately clear.

One student described the suspect as “shy” and told CNN that he was “very quiet” while carrying out the assault.

“He just was kind of doing it and he had this look on his face that he was just crazy and he was just running around just stabbing everyone who was in his way,” she told CNN.

She spoke of seeing at least two students gushing blood, one from his chest and a girl from the arm.

“I started hearing like a stampede of students coming down from the other end of the hall screaming, ‘Get out, we need to leave, go, there is a kid with a knife,'” she said.

The assailant, who sustained an injured hand, has not been named although Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said he would in all likelihood be charged as an adult.

FBI and state police have been drafted in to assist with what is now expected to be a lengthy investigation.

Peck outlined the possible charges as aggravated assault and, in cases of serious injury, possible criminal attempt to commit homicide.

Doctor Mark Rubino at Forbes Regional Hospital, which is treating eight of the victims, said he expected everyone to survive, despite what he called “deep penetrating” stab wounds.

The knife wounds caused significant injuries to internal organs, Rubino said.

“Three of the patients had severe injuries and are still in the operating room right now. And two of them are in critical condition, but they have stabilized,” Rubino said.

“The other five that we had are still being evaluated, of whom one or two may require further surgery.”

Praise for teachers

Dan Stevens, a spokesman for Westmoreland County emergency management, told AFP that the teenage victims were aged 14 to 17.

The incident lasted from 7:13 am to 7:45 am, he said.

They were attacked in “numerous classrooms and hallways” of the school, Stevens added.

Wednesday’s attack comes after a long and frequent line of US school shootings that have inflamed a nationwide debate over gun control in the United States.

But even the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 young children and six adults were shot dead, ultimately failed to tighten gun ownership rules.

The police chief Seefeld praised school staff, who worked in close coordination with police and who were well versed in emergency procedure.

“It is my opinion that today, as unfortunate as it is… I think that it could have been a lot worse if there was not immediate interaction that occurred,” he told reporters.

Franklin Regional High will be closed for several days.