METAIRIE, La. - When a man and a woman were found dead inside their Old Metairie home Oct. 4, an autopsy later revealed the two died after overdosing on a very potent drug called acetyl fentanyl.
"It's very similar to heroin," said Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich. "The problem is, it's much more potent, and it has a much more pronounced respiratory effect than heroin does."
Cvitanovich said the drug is a synthetic narcotic that's relatively new to this area.
"The pattern of this drug is that it's been clustered in different parts of the country," he said. "The most well-known cluster was maybe six months ago in Rhode Island where they had 14 deaths linked to this. When they did further testing, it turned out to be 50."
So far this year, five people in Jefferson Parish have died after using the drug.
"What happens is, it's getting sold as heroin or in place of heroin, to people who have been using heroin," said Dr. Kenison Roy, medical director for Addiction Recovery Resources, Inc.
He said some patients are already talking about the new drug.
"I've had a couple of people who came in for detox and said they've seen it, which means they've used it," Roy said.
Acetyl fentanyl is so new, there really is no street name for it yet. Roy says the drug, like heroin, is extremely addictive.
"It's also extremely tolerance-producing," Roy said. "That means that when somebody starts using it, they rapidly develop a tolerance so they will have to use more and more."
Cvitanovich believes some people who are taking the drug may not even know what they've injected.
"Your heroin dealers could be mixing this in to beef up a weak multi-cut batch of heroin," he said.