Drug overdoses in Ohio are at record numbers and many are crediting the spike with a sudden increase of fentanyl, a potent drug that has catastrophic results when mixed with heroin.
Drug overdose numbers in the state of Ohio alone clocked a staggering total of 3,050 lives last year. More than one-third of the deaths were tied to fentanyl.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 80-percent of fentanyl confiscations in 2014 occurred in 10 different states in the US, many of them in the Midwest, northeast and southern regions.
Ohio totaled a number of 1,245 confiscations, topping the list.
USA Today reported that both Ohio and Indiana have been put on high-alert following a series of overdoses in the states. Fentanyl is suspected to have contributed to 50 overdoses between the two Midwest states since Tuesday. More than 75 overdoses were reported since Friday.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. The CDC reports that there are two types of fentanyl. One kind, Pharmaceutical fentanyl, is often prescribed to patients with chronic pain associated with advancing cancer. The second kind is an illegally made substance that can often be found mixed with heroin or cocaine, added to heighten the drugs' effects.
Fentanyl was reported to be responsible for the late singer Prince’s untimely death. Recently, Vanity Fair reported that the pills the singer ingested (although they tested positive for fentanyl) were falsely labeled “Watson 385” pills — a blend of acetaminophen and hydrocodone commonly found in Vicodin. Although the case is still under investigation, the report could mean that the singer accidentally OD’d on the medication without prior knowledge of the fentanyl.
Police chief Tom Synan of Newtown, Ohio did tell USA Today that the recent overdose cases in Ohio are similar to the cases reported a few weeks ago in the cities of Akron and Columbus when carfentanil, an analogue of fentanyl that is typically used to sedate large animals, was found mixed in heroin. Synan is still uncertain about the cause of Cincinnati’s recent round of overdose cases, though.
“We have no idea, really, what’s causing this at this point, if it’s carfentanil or something else in this particular batch of heroin,” Synan said.
The Indianapolis Star reported that a special agent in the DEA’s Indianapolis office, Greg Westfall, said undercover agents purchased what they thought to be heroin in the city. They later discovered it was entirely fentanyl.
“It’s a very scary time right now,” Westfall told the news outlet. “It is deadly.”