Animal tranquilizers reportedly used to spike heroin are possibly to blame for an explosion in overdoses over the summer in Ohio and the region surrounding Cincinnati.
Authorities reported 78 heroin overdoses during a two-day period in Cincinnati's Tri-State region with three fatalities in late August, WCPO-TV reported. Carfentanil, an opioid 10,000 times stronger than morphine, was referenced by Hamilton County Health Commissioner Tim Ingram earlier as the drug used to lace heroin.
"I've got to say to whoever pushed this out on the street, this was the wrong thing to do," Newtown, Ohio, Police Chief Tom Synan, head of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, told WCPO-TV.
"You now have the full and undivided attention of the Hamilton County Coalition Task Force, which includes local, state and federal agencies, and I can tell you we'll all be working with the Cincinnati Police Department to see who pushed this out on the street," Synan continued.
The television station reported that just two milligrams of the drug can immobilize a 2,000-pound African elephant.
Rayshon L. Alexander, 36, of Columbus, Ohio, was indicted in July by a Frankly County grand jury on 20 counts accusing him of selling the drug in various transactions, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Authorities initially thought that heroin mixed with fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller, was the source linked to overdose deaths there, but lab tests of samples gathered found carfentanil instead, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien told the newspaper.
The Dispatch reported that one batch of the tainted heroin in the Columbus area in July led to 11 overdoses and two deaths.
Cincinnati Police told WCPO-TV that they thought more than one dealer was involved in spreading the deadly heroin with at least one giving out the drugs for free.
"Of the victims that would talk to us and were honest in telling us where they received this heroin from, it's from several different people ... from several different areas," Cincinnati Police Capt. Aaron Jones told the television station. "Some of those were given almost as what we call testers — 'Try this out and if you like it, you can get a hold of me.'"
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