A synthetic opioid forty times more deadly than fentanyl has been found all over Ohio.
Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost has issued a warning to residents in the state that nitazenes, a synthetic opioid forty times more deadly than fentanyl, has hit the streets. This powerful synthetic is also known has “Frankenstein opioids” and is part of the drug class known as benzimidazole opioids. The Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction explains that these opioids were developed sixty years ago as a potential pain relief medication but were never approved for clinical use.
“The presence of nitazenes in the unregulated drug supply is rising. The frequency with which they are detected is increasing, but there is also an increasing number of nitazene analogs,” The Center warns, adding, “Nitazenes can increase the risk of accidental overdose, especially when combined with other substances that suppress breathing and heart rate such as other opioids or benzodiazepines.”
Yost said to Ohio residents, “The problem with these Frankenstein opioids is that they can be much more dangerous than the drugs we already see on the street like fentanyl.”
Nitazines are currently being manufactured for distribution in underground labs. They have been found to be mixed with other dangerous drugs, including (and mostly) fentanyl, which is up to sixty times more powerful than morphine by itself. Unlike other opioids, Frankenstein opioid overdoses are difficult to reverse with naloxone and often take additional doses of the overdose-reversal drug to possibly work.
Furthermore, the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction warns, “Fentanyl test strips cannot detect nitazenes and detection of nitazenes by point-of-service drug checking requires sensitive equipment that is not always available.”
“Several police officers who just touched a little fentanyl immediately fell out, overdosed and were rushed to the hospital,” Yost said. “I’m worried about that not only happening to law enforcement but also members of the public.” His office found these opioids across the entire state but indicated that the heaviest distribution was taking place in Montgomery County.
“It’s getting more and more dangerous out there, the opioid overdoses and deaths are as high as they’ve ever been in Ohio and across the country,” Yost said.
Late last year, The Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) announced it would be issuing grant money totaling more than $300 million to help fight against the nation’s growing addiction crisis, which has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) said millions in grants aimed at tackling the crisis would be distributed. Moreover, OJP awarded $34 million to help communities respond to public safety and public health emergencies, particularly those associated with the addiction epidemic. One of the primary targets was nitazenes.
Alex Krotulski, PhD, associate director at The Center for Forensic Science Research & Education, explained at the time, “Nitazenes are the most popular subclass of new synthetic opioids…There are many factors that play into the increase in opioid overdoses. However, it’s not as easy to always understand the extent of a new opioid’s impact.”