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Article
February 27, 1991

An Outbreak of Designer Drug—Related Deaths in Pennsylvania

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Field Services, Epidemiology Program Office, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Ga (Dr Hibbs); Allegheny County Coroner's Office, Pittsburgh, Pa (Dr Perper); and Department of Laboratories, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pa (Dr Winek).

From the Division of Field Services, Epidemiology Program Office, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Ga (Dr Hibbs); Allegheny County Coroner's Office, Pittsburgh, Pa (Dr Perper); and Department of Laboratories, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pa (Dr Winek).

JAMA. 1991;265(8):1011-1013. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460080081037
Abstract

3-Methylfentanyl ("China White") is a "designer" opiate that has caused more than 100 overdose deaths in California since 1979, but that has not been associated previously with deaths east of the Rocky Mountains. During 1988, 3-methylfentanyl was identified in 16 fatal overdose cases in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, contributing to a fourfold rise in overdose mortality during October of that year. Morphine was detected in the blood of five persons (31%) and cocaine in the blood of three persons (19%) dying of 3-methylfentanyl overdoses; these were demographically similar to 99 other fatal overdose cases investigated by the county coroner from 1986 through 1988. This documents the contribution of 3-methylfentanyl to overdose mortality in an eastern city and the use of 3-methylfentanyl with other illegal drugs. Drug abusers in the northeastern United States should be considered at risk for more "designer drug" overdose outbreaks in the future.

(JAMA. 1991;265:1011-1013)

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