Public Health Alert: Increase in Overdoses

Published Date: Sep 29, 2016

WINCHESTER – Since Monday, agents with the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task
Force have responded to eight overdoses in Winchester and Frederick County. Lab results will
determine the narcotics used in the overdoses, but investigators believe five of the cases involved
heroin and the other three involved synthetic drugs. The victims of the overdoses are expected to

This year 21 people in the Northern Shenandoah Valley have lost their lives to a heroin
overdose. Another 75 individuals have reportedly overdosed and survived. Prior to the eight
overdoses over the past three days, our region had not had a reported overdose in more than a
week. Last year 30 people died as a result of a heroin overdose and 55 non-fatal overdoses were

The Task Force has been able to determine that the heroin used in most of these cases came out
of Baltimore. Agents are continuing to investigate the incidents.
The Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition is alerting the public about the
dangers of heroin and its potential for overdose. We are asking the public to pay attention to the
behaviors of individuals around them, and if they notice any of the following general signs of
substance use, to seek help.

  • Change in friends
  • Declining grades
  • Decrease in motivation, “No drive”
  • Increased school disciplinary action
  • Loss of interest in activities (Sports, music, hobbies)
  • Missed school or work
  • Selling/pawning, stealing, or missing valuables/cash
  • Frequent use of mints/gum/candy/chips to mask breath
  • Hiding substances (i.e. Cars, wallets, hat rims, shoes)
  • Hiding controlled substances in non-controlled prescription bottles that look similar
  • Avoidance of loved ones/secrecy/irrational excuses for absences
  • Overly sensitive or defensive/detached
  • Anxiety/depression/frequent mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Isolation (long periods in bathroom/shower, car or bedroom)
  • Changing sleep hours
  • Decline in physical self-care
  • Sudden onset or increased cigarette usage
  • Increase in speeding or other tickets or minor accidents

Specific to IV Use (Heroin/Cocaine/Other):

  • Wearing long sleeve shirts during warm weather (To cover “track marks”)
  • Napping or falling asleep at strange times (heroin or opioids)
  • Long periods in the bathroom/shower

The latest increase in overdoses emphasizes the critical need to get individuals who are suffering
with the disease of addiction into treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with a
substance use disorder, please seek help. For a comprehensive listing of addiction resources in
the Northern Shenandoah Valley visit