Ohio’s top attorney this week is warning residents of a new class of designer drugs that are more deadly than fentanyl.
“Frankenstein opioids are even more lethal than the drugs already responsible for so many overdose deaths,” Attorney General Dave Yost said in a press release. “Law enforcement and the public need to pay attention to these emerging hazards.”
The drugs in question are nitazenes, which Yost says are “a group of dangerous synthetic opioids that can be up to 40 times more potent than fentanyl.”
Just .2 milligrams of fentanyl – which is used as a prescription painkiller but also manufactured illicitly and sold on the street – can be deadly.
In the first quarter of 2022, Yost’s release said, there were 143 nitazene cases in Ohio. There were only 27 such cases in that time period last year.
“Nitazene compounds were originally synthesized in the 1950s for research of their analgesic effects; however, these substances are not approved for medical use anywhere in the world,” said a bulletin from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (CBI). “Three substances identified in this class of drugs – etonitazene, clonitazene, and isotonitazene – were previously classified as Schedule I Drugs.”
That bulletin continued:
Recent studies show that the potency of nitazene compounds varies, with some being 1.5-40 times more potent than fentanyl. Substances that trigger the opioid receptors, like nitazenes, have a high potential for abuse and addiction and can induce dose-dependent respiratory depression. As a result, nitazenes pose an increased risk for accidental overdoses, especially when combined with other substances that suppress the Central Nervous System.1 Nitazenes have been reported as contributing to deaths across the United States and Canada.
Ohio is already witnessing a record surge in opioid usage and overdoses, prompting prior warnings from the attorney general’s office.
Municipalities within the state are working on ways to prevent opioid overdose deaths.
Columbus offers free naloxone, also known as Narcan, to residents. That drug reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.
“Narcan distribution is part of our comprehensive programming to address the addiction crisis – and it is highly effective,” Columbus’ Director of Communications Kelli Newman told The Ohio Star last month. “Last year, through the Columbus & Franklin County Addiction Plan, we provided 24,144 Narcan kits (48,244 doses) and conducted 624 community trainings. As a result of Narcan being dispensed by bystanders, friends and family members, there were 3,699 overdose reversals in our community last year. Simply put, Narcan saves lives.”
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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].