Montgomery County is leading Ohio in the number of cases involving synthetic opioids that can be up to 40 times more potent than fentanyl, and a new report shows the drug has been found in nearly every area county this year.
The explosion of nitazenes, called “Frankenstein opioids” by some, prompted a warning to law enforcement from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Wednesday.
During the first quarter of this year, Montgomery County had at least 20 incidents of nitazenes, more than any other county in the state, according to statistics from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s laboratory.
The opioid was also detected in samples from Butler, Greene, Warren, Clark, Preble and Darke counties, according to BCI.
A BCI report said Butler County had between 10 and 13 incidents in the first quarter; Greene, seven and nine; Preble and Warren, five to six; and Clark and Darke, three to four.
Nitazenes can be 1.5 to 40 times more potent than fentanyl and may require additional doses of naloxone to reverse overdoses, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
“Frankenstein opioids are even more lethal than the drugs already responsible for so many overdose deaths,” Yost said. “Law enforcement and the public need to pay attention to these emerging hazards.”
BCI reported 413 cases of nitazenes during the first quarter of the year, up from 27 cases during the same time last year.
The Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory saw an increase in nitazenes in drug submissions during the end of last year, but it represented a fraction of submissions when compared to other drugs.
In the first quarter of this year, nitazenes accounted for 0.9% of drug submissions, according to the regional crime lab. Methamphetamine accounted for 26.5% and fentanyl/fentanyl analogs accounted for 19.4%
In some cases, nitazenes are being found mixed with other drugs, including fentanyl, fentanyl pharmacophores, tramadol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and PCP analogs, according to the attorney general’s office.
First responders should handle all items suspected of containing nitazenes or fentanyl-related substances with the proper protective equipment.
Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order banning seven benzimidazole-opioids, including butonitazene, etodesnitazene, flunitazene, metonitazene, metodesnitazene, N-pyrrolidino etonitazene and protonitazene.
“The seven substances have a high potential for abuse and addiction and can lead to large numbers of drug treatment admissions, emergency department visits and fatal overdoses,” according to the executive order.
In the first quarter of this year, the BCI lab reported the following number of nitazene items in Ohio:
- Metonitazene: 82
- N-pyrrolidino etonitazene: 30
- Etodesnitazene: 25
- Isotonitazene: 15
- Butonitazene: 5
- Flunitazene: 1
- Protonitazene: 1