Dave Yost, the Ohio attorney general, and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation are warning the state about an increasing emergence of synthetic opioids called nitazenes.
Nitazenes are a group of synthetic opioids that can be up to 40 times more potent than fentanyl, according to a report from BCI.
"Frankenstein opioids are even more lethal than the drugs already responsible for so many overdose deaths," said Yost in the press release. "Law enforcement and the public need to pay attention to these emerging hazards."
Daryl Hams is the project director for the Regional Harm Reduction Collaboration, working with people who use those types of drugs.
“It’s a tranquilizer, so it like dopes you out ... Frankenstein is a good name, zombie,” Hams said. “They use the opiate the night before, and they can’t open their eyes still by 11 a.m. the next day.”
Because it is more potent than the fentanyl that county coroners say is plaguing our region with deaths, it can take much more Narcan nasal spray to revive a person who overdosed.
Hams said because many regular drug users are familiar with fentanyl and they often have Narcan on them in case of overdose, the biggest threat is for those recreational users like college or high school students experimenting with drugs.
“I have been doing this 30 years in multiple countries,” Hams said. “It’s not the same. It’s not kids having fun. It’s not like doing a little drug on the weekend to kick back. It’s life and death.”
That's why Hams said parents need to tell their children to carry Narcan, which is available at the pharmacy or local health department. It is harmless to those who are not overdosing, so he said you cannot hurt someone if they do not need it.
In the first quarter of 2022, the attorney general's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) reported 143 nitazene cases in Ohio, up from 27 cases in the first quarter last year.
In a bulletin issued by BCI, the organization said they found nitazenes in several Ohio counties, but the southwest Ohio region made up many of the discoveries.
Montgomery County is the only Ohio county in which there were 20 or more cases of nitazene found, with Scioto County falling into the "14-19" range.
Butler County was the only county listed in the state with "10-13" nitazene compounds discovered.
The opioid compound is often found mixed with other drugs — primarily fentanyl, but it has also been found in cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and PCP analogs, Yost said.
"In the first quarter of 2022, the Ohio BCI Lab saw that 82.5% of cases containing nitazene compounds also contained fentanyl," reads a bulletin issued from BCI.
The compounds can be consumed while mixed with other substances, unbeknownst to the user, BCI said.
Nitazenes are also more addictive and can create an increased risk for overdoses.
A person overdosing as a result of a substance involving nitazenes could require additional doses of naloxone because the drug can be anywhere from 1..5 to 40 times more potent than fentanyl, BCI said.
The nitazene compounds found in Ohio specifically have varied greatly in visual appearance, ranging several different colors. BCI has discovered the synthetic opioid in powder forms, solid substances, liquid from syringes and residues.