This week, the Drug Enforcement Agency also issued a temporary scheduling order to make the drugs illegal on a federal level.
“This action is based on a finding by the Administrator that the placement of these seven substances in schedule I is necessary to avoid imminent hazard to the public safety,” the agency said.
Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger said the compounds are occasionally seen in the local crime lab. The samples, which are submitted for examination by law enforcement, are usually mixed with other drugs like fentanyl, he said.
“As we know these compounds are within the seized material submitted to the Miami Valley Crime Laboratory by law enforcement, the action is certainly beneficial from both the overdose potential and the prosecutor’s ability to successfully prosecute,” Harshbarger said.
He said the executive order will be a deterrent and will hopefully stop people from adding these compounds to other illicit drugs. He said that the toxicology lab does not screen for benzimidazole-opioids yet, and therefore it is unclear how many local overdose deaths those drugs have contributed to.
The pharmacy board found the population that is likely to abuse the seven benzimidazole-opioids appear to be the same as those abusing other opioids like heroin and fentanyl.
“This is evidenced by the types of other drugs co-identified in biological samples and law enforcement encounters,” the board said. “Because abusers are likely to obtain these substances through unregulated sources, their identity, purity, and quantity are uncertain and likely to be inconsistent, thus posing significant adverse health risks to the end-user.”
The board said some of the drugs have been identified in forensic post-mortem cases in different states. It also said according to 2019 data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, about 10 million people misused opioids.
More than 4,000 Ohioans died of unintentional drug overdoses in 2019. Montgomery County has averaged almost one accidental overdose death per day for 2020 and 2021, with over 300 deaths each of those years.