Coroners in two of Ohio’s largest counties — Franklin and Cuyahoga — have issued warnings following the reappearance of an opioid so powerful it’s sometimes used to sedate elephants.
Officials in Montgomery County said they have not seen a reemergence of carfentanil in the illicit drug market in Dayton, but said there has been an increase in overdose deaths involving fentanyl.
“We do believe there is a little bit of an overdose spike,” said Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger.
The county recorded 88 accidental overdose deaths from November through January, according to preliminary numbers – a 12 percent increase over the same months last year. Some deaths have not yet been recorded as test results are pending.
Carfentanil, which is used to sedate large animals such as elephants, is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, according to the DEA.
The Franklin County coroner’s office is reporting three deaths due to the powerful synthetic opioid in January.
That’s half the number of carfentanil overdose deaths that county saw in all of 2018, when six were reported.
“Carfentanil has surfaced once more, and it is important that our residents are aware of the lethality of the drug,” Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi M. Ortiz said in a released statement.
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Like other fentanyl analogs, carfentanil can resemble powdered cocaine or heroin and therefore be mixed into other drugs and ingested without a person’s knowledge.
The warning by the Franklin County coroner comes a day after the Cuyahoga County coroner issued a similar warning.
“The re-appearance of carfentanil in the local illicit drug supply is alarming,” said Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gibson in a released statement. “This is a very lethal drug and anyone using illicit or diverted drugs needs to be aware of the possibility of being exposed to it.”
From January to August 2018 Montgomery County recorded 14 overdose deaths where carfentanil was present.
Local officials said they don’t know if the trends seen in other Ohio cities will make there way here or not.
“We cannot predict which specific national drug trends will appear locally, but we do want people to realize it is possible, and what steps they can take to protect themselves,” said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County.
The Community Overdose Action Team (COAT) encourages family and friends of persons at risk of a drug overdose or those using opioids to carry Naloxone. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that, if administered during an opioid overdose can potentially save the life of the individual.
Always call 911 in a life-threatening situation and do not leave the victim alone.
For more information on how to obtain and use naloxone contact Project DAWN, through CrisisCare at 937-224-4646 or CarePoint at 937-496-7133. Naloxone distribution takes place Wednesday’s at noon at 601 Edwin C. Moses, Blvd. Conference Room 135.
COAT also encourages everyone to download the GetHelpNow Montgomery County app.
The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.