Coroner worked three cases of heroin overdose over weekend

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 26, 2019

Over the past weekend, the Pearl River County Coroner’s office worked three cases of suspected drug overdose deaths, all believed to be associated with the use of heroin laced with fentanyl.
Derek Turnage, the county’s coroner, said that the cases began on Dec. 21, when emergency responders were called to a home where a young man was found to be unresponsive. That person was later pronounced and an investigation began into the cause. Turnage said that the evidence found at the scene indicates the individual allegedly used heroin which could have been laced with fentanyl. Two additional fatal overdose cases occurred between that time and Sunday afternoon within this county, Turnage said. Both of those overdose deaths are also believed to be due to the use of heroin possibly laced with fentanyl.
“Everything we have indicates (the deaths) were from heroin use,” Turnage said.
A fourth overdose case involving death also occurred over the weekend, but did not occur within Pearl River County. However, Turnage said that case was reported about 50 miles from Picayune.
While fentanyl is suspected to have been in the drug, Turnage said he is waiting on crime lab results to know for sure. He added that the deaths appeared to be accidental, and not a form of suicide.
In Turnage’s experience, when a person unknowingly uses heroin that is laced with fentanyl, they are typically found in the pose they were in when they injected the drug into their bloodstream because the drug acts so quickly. If a person is able to stand up after injecting that drug, they “don’t get very far,” Turnage said.
He recalls a case that occurred about a year ago in the Picayune area where a man was found deceased in his home, also due to a heroin overdose. The man kept snakes in his home, four of which were considered deadly. Turnage said that a representative of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks warned the emergency responders that one of the snakes, a pit viper, was especially deadly; so much so that one bite could kill a person as fast as the heroin used in the cases over the weekend.
“The drugs are like playing with deadly snakes, you don’t go very far,” Turange said.
While the rate of fatal overdoses has decreased since the introduction of Narcan, Turnage said, “when fentanyl comes into play, Narcan does no good.”
One aspect of this problem is that illicit drugs don’t come with a list of ingredients.
“When you buy something off the street, you have no idea what you are buying,” Turnage said.
Overdose cases bring first responders into situations where they could be harmed, and bring undue stress on families, especially when they occur during the holidays, Turnage said.

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