Methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin and crack cocaine are potent drugs all on their own.
Mixed together and combined in gel capsules, Rutland City Police say, the illegal drugs present a potentially lethal combination — one that investigators suspect is responsible for a rash of recent nonfatal overdoses.
Rutland City Police Detective Sgt. James Tarbell said Thursday that police first found the small white pills containing the four-drug combination during a traffic stop July 25.
The man found with the pills told police they contained a mixture of the four drugs, although testing at the Rutland Police Department has only confirmed the presence of ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamine. Tarbell said further testing would determine whether the pills also contain crack cocaine.
Less than a week later, he said emergency services were called on to deal with six drug overdoses within a 12-hour period Wednesday.
“I find it a bit too coincidental that we had six in a 12-hour time frame and none of the victims want to cooperate,” Tarbell said. “It’s my educated guess that they’re connected and in talking to medical personnel the symptoms that have presented during treatment in these cases was different than what they’re used to.”
City police and Regional Ambulance Service were called to another reported drug overdose Thursday but it was unclear what type of drug was involved.
While no one died from the overdoses this week, Tarbell predicted that the high-powered concoction seized by police presents a greater danger to drug users than the depressant and stimulant drugs that make up the cocktail would individually.
“When you introduce depressants and stimulants like that into your body at the same time it has a dramatic effect because your body is not built for that,” he said.
Talking about the public health consequences, Tarbell added “It’s gonna be a mess.”
Vermont Health Commissioner Harry Chen said he had the same concerns.
Mixing the high-powered stimulants with a depressant like heroin he said would cause the body to “crank up” blood pressure, heart rate and the nervous system leading to possible heart arrhythmia, rapid heart rate, strokes and seizures.
“Right off the bat it’s clear this combination is especially dangerous,” Chen said. “They’re all dangerous drugs in and of themselves but when you mix them together like that it’s a recipe for disaster.”
It’s unclear how much of the drug mixture is available in the community or where it’s coming from, although Tarbell said police believe it’s being imported from outside of Vermont.
While heroin and crack cocaine are commonly used illegal drugs in Rutland, ecstasy is uncommon and methamphetamine use in Rutland — and Vermont in general — is extremely low, police say.
The four-drug combination commands a high price on the street where Tarbell said the pills sell for up to $75 apiece.
But it’s unclear how widespread the distribution is or how many of the pills have already arrived in the community.
Outside of Rutland, the drug cocktail hasn’t been seen at all, according to Vermont State Police Lt. Matthew Birmingham, commander of the state police drug task forces.
“It’s really popping up right now only in Rutland,” Birmingham said. “It certainly concerns us though and we’ll work to identify the source.”
Like Tarbell and Chen, Birmingham’s biggest concern was the health risk posed by the drugs which he said were probably being blended by amateur chemists at best.
“It’s not being mixed by people who have a fear of people dying in mind. They’re mixing it to make money,” he said.
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