Deaths from heroin have more than doubled within the past five years. All across the United States, towns are being hit increasingly hard with unprecedented levels of overdoses. The heroin epidemic is unlike anything people have seen. Cincinnati was hit especially hard over the past month, with the county seeing a massive 200 overdoses in the last two weeks. Thanks to quick responses, good supplies, and sufficient training for emergency personnel, there were only three deaths. It’s still possible that there were more overdoses which went unreported.
City Manager Harry Black said that Cincinnati sees an average of four overdoses a day. This is a difficult number to pin down because multiple agencies report different statistics, but it’s clear the number is usually low. Not low enough, but still low. Officials have confirmed that the recent rash of overdoses is because of heroin laced with carfentanil, a potent opioid 10,000 times stronger than morphine and most commonly used to tranquilize elephants. Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana have also experienced a surge in overdoses, though it’s still unknown if they are all related.
Fentanyl has been directly linked to many of the overdoses across the nation this year and is known for its extreme potency however officials are even more concerned about this sudden upsurge of the use of carfentanil. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and, as the New York Times reports, carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Experts have said that amounts as small as a snowflake could be lethal.
The head of the Hamilton County Heroin Task Force, Newtown police Chief Tom Synan, warned heroin users to not buy anything until the dust settled. “We don’t know what’s in the stuff on the street,” he said. He suspects that the dealers are promoting a new batch that they know is deadly. “These people are intentionally putting in drugs they know can kill someone. The benefit for them is if the user survives it is such a powerful high for them, they tend to come back… If one or two people dies, they could care less. They know the supply is so big right now that if you lose some customers… there’s always more in line.”