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Alerts over 'poisoned heroin'
9:00am Saturday 10th May 2014 in News
HEROIN users are being warned of a potentially contaminated batch which may have killed a man and put others in hospital.
The 50-year-old man was found dead in his room at homeless hostel O’Hanlon House in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Another 50-year-old man was last night being questioned by police after being arrested over the death at O’Hanlon House.
The suspect was being held on suspicion of administering a poison with intent to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm.
It comes as drug support workers were warned on Thursday of potentially contaminated heroin after some users in Oxfordshire suffered overdoses.
One O’Hanlon House resident, who asked not to be named, yesterday said: “There are a lot of people here who are very, very concerned about this.”
The death at the 56-bed hostel in Luther Street came after a 30-year-old man was found dead in his room there on Thursday afternoon.
Police are not linking the deaths.
Before Thursday there had been three deaths at the hostel since it opened in 2003.
- Lesley Dewhurst
Lesley Dewhurst, chief executive of the charity Oxford Homeless Pathways, said staff and residents would be offered counselling following the deaths She said: “We are all very sad. The staff and residents here are clearly shaken. It has just been really shocking to have two deaths in 24 hours.”
She said known drug users had been spoken to after the alert and said the system will have saved some users.
The warning was sent out by Oxfordshire County Council’s Drug and Alcohol Team (DAAT) and calls on drug workers to warn users not to buy from unknown sources, not to mix drugs and alcohol, and to avoid taking drugs while alone.
It states: “The DAAT have received reports of several non-fatal admissions to hospital this week following collapse. The current reports are that these are as a result of potentially contaminated heroin. These incidences have occurred across Oxfordshire.”
Council spokesman Paul Smith would not say how many drug users had been affected and over what time period.
But he said: “There have been a small suspected number of unconfirmed heroin overdoses in Oxfordshire in recent times.
“There is no confirmation as to why this might be or whether there is any linkage between individual instances.
“One of the possibilities in such circumstances is that there could have been a contaminated batch of heroin. As such, professionals have been alerted to this possibility.”
Deedee Wallace, service manager at Cowley Road-based Lifeline Oxfordshire, said: “We have printed out the warning and we have posted it all over the building.”
Drugs advice service Frank says Class A heroin is commonly cut with substances including sugar, Paracetamol and powdered milk. But it says nutmeg, brick dust, and ground-up gravel have also been known to be used.
Inspector Andy Thompson, Oxford city centre neighbourhood inspector, said warnings were usually put out when users fell badly ill. But he said a batch could be either contaminated or too pure.
He said: “Heroin can be cut with all sorts and it is rare that it is pure.”
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