A crushing number of opioid-overdoses plagued Columbus, Ohio this Tuesday. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the city was hit with 27 overdoses within a 24-hour period.
WTOL reported that the bulk of the overdoses occurred within just hours of each other. According to police, a batch of “bad heroin” had begun circulating in the Ohio capital. Medical responders gave Narcan to the victims, which reversed the effects of overdoses.
According to WISHTV, there have been three arrests made related to the incident. Christopher Rees, 22, Corey Hofelich, 22, and Andrew Ash, 21, were arrested Tuesday evening for charges including possession of heroin, possession of marijuana, and maintaining a common nuisance.
Police also found about 14 grams of heroin, $1,000 cash, and drug paraphernalia with the suspects. A portion of the heroin is suspected of being laced with another opioid, which can explain the mass of overdoses.
Heroin overdoses are becoming more common as time passes, especially overdoses caused by heroin laced with powerful additives, such as fentanyl. Adding additional opioids such as fentanyl to heroin greatly increases the potency of the drug. The intensity is a selling point for drug dealers, who will have opioid addicts coming back again and again to purchase the deadly mixture.
The issue with mixing heroin with potent opioids is the risk of overdose. Drug dealers typically do not let on that their heroin has been laced. Many additives, like fentanyl, are undetectable by sight alone. When heroin users consume the lethal mixture, they are unaware of the difference in potency. This is what causes an overdose.
The DEA released a statement about fentanyl, with Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley voicing his concern over the drug:
“Fentanyl can kill you,” Riley said. “Fentanyl is being sold as heroin in virtually every corner of our country. It’s produced clandestinely in Mexico, and (also) comes directly from China. It is 40 to 50 times stronger than street-level heroin. A very small amount ingested, or absorbed through your skin, can kill you.”
Opioids like fentanyl are not just powerful. They are also fast acting. Fentanyl can take only minutes to affect the body. While medication such as Narcan can reverse the effects of an overdose, they will only work if medical responders can get to the overdose victim in time.
Other opioids that are mixed with heroin can be even more powerful. Carfentanil, a fentanyl variation, can be thousands of times stronger than heroin. Despite being severely hazardous, drug dealers have used this drug to make their products more potent. This often leads to a lethal overdose.
The DEA’s Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg made a statement about the dangers of this new player in the opioid market.
“Carfentanil is surfacing in more and more communities.” said Rosenberg. “We see it on the streets, often disguised as heroin. It is crazy dangerous.”