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Published July 16, 2012, 05:12 PM

5 People Overdose on Heroin in Duluth; 1 Dies

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Five people in Duluth apparently overdosed on heroin over the weekend and one died, police said Monday. Officers responded to reports of five overdoses Friday through Sunday. A 60-year-old man died of what appears to be an overdose, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

By: Associated Press,

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Five people in Duluth apparently overdosed on heroin over the weekend and one died, police said Monday.

Officers responded to reports of five overdoses Friday through Sunday. A 60-year-old man died of what appears to be an overdose, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

The victim's name is being withheld until relatives are notified.

Duluth police Lt. Steve Stracek said medical examiner's reports haven't been completed so he can't say for sure that the man died from a heroin overdose, "but there were strong indications of heroin use at those scenes, so we have every reason to believe that this was related to illegal heroin use."

Stracek said in all five cases the victims were initially not responsive to officers on the scene and required hospitalization.

Last month, the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force arrested 22 people for alleged heroin dealing in the Twin Ports area.

Operation Brownstone — named after brown powder heroin, the type most seen in the Twin Ports — was a joint effort by the task force; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; and Duluth police to combat the increase in heroin trafficking and abuse being seen there.

Duluth police said they are seeing similar reports of overdoses and increased heroin potency from elsewhere in Minnesota and nationwide. Over the past year, Duluth police say, they have tried to crack down on the trafficking, sale and use of prescription painkillers and heroin.

"Unlike prescription drugs, when you buy a gram of heroin or half gram of heroin, you don't know what you are getting," Stracek said. "Drugs are cut down with different products to increase the volume so drug dealers make more money, obviously. Today, you might buy heroin that's 5 or 10 percent pure. That same dealer may come to you the next day and have something that is 30 or 40 percent pure. And if your system is used to processing 3 or 4 or 5 percent pure heroin and all of a sudden you throw in 30 or 50 percent, you're going to overdose because your body just can't handle that quantity."

Investigators are investigating the recent overdoses. Anyone with information about illegal drug activity is asked to call the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.

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