JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) --There's been an uptick in a toxic substance detected in heroin users in Will County.
The toxin, W18, has been linked to at least one death there.
Health officials are now scrambling to save lives.
Today Amie Toste is on the other side.
Three years sober, she now offers support to those trying to stay away from heroin and a growing list of strong synthetic opioids.
"It's very scary," said Toste, Stepping Stones, group coordinator. "You never really know what you're getting."
The Will County coroner said in April a man came in with a heroin overdose and traces of a drugs called W18. Not much is known about this drug, but is known is that W18 and these other synthetic opioid-like drugs are extremely powerful and can be dangerous.
W18 was a drug developed decades ago. The DEA found W18 in the Philadelphia area earlier this year and warns that the synthetic is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and has not been tested in humans.
Stepping Stones Treatment Center has seen increasing admissions in Joliet for heroin addiction as the county has already seen as many heroin overdoses so far in 2016 as all of last year.
Counselors and recovery specialists fear what may be on the horizon with a new wave of toxic heroin additives.
"Do not touch these drugs," said Brian Hazard, Stepping Stones, director of admissions. "There's no safe way to use these."