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Heroin in Fox Lake death of lethal purity, official says
By Lee Filas | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/2/2009 2:40 PM

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A heroin sample obtained following an overdose death in Fox Lake late last year was so pure it killed the victim nearly instantly, Lake County Coroner Dr. Richard Keller said Thursday.

It is one of two test results from overdoses in Lake County in late 2008, Keller said, that prove his warnings that the drug is becoming more pure - and more dangerous to casual users.

Normal heroin has a purity of about 15 percent, meaning 15 grains of heroin are found among 100 total grains of heroin and other diluents, he said. The greater purity of heroin, the more deadly it is, especially for those accustomed to more diluted quality.

According to tests conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Keller said the Fox Lake sample had a purity of 65 percent, while the second sample, obtained in Waukegan, had a purity of 23 percent.

He said the Fox Lake sample would cause death in even the most hard-core drug users, while the Waukegan sample is extremely potent and capable of causing death in casual users.

"Going from 15 percent diluted heroin to 23 percent diluted heroin may not sound like much, but is a pretty potent increase to people not used to it," he said. "So, you can imagine how high of a jump the 65 percent diluted heroin is."

The Fox Lake heroin sample was so pure the victim died within seconds of pushing the syringe plunger, Keller said.

"It was so fast that police discovered him laying on the syringe," he said. "He literally pulled the syringe out, dropped it, and fell over dead."

Keller said the message is clear; don't start using heroin now.

"If you've never used it or use it casually now, this isn't the time to start," he said. "The heroin out there now is so pure that it can kill you instantly."