COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine continues to caution Ohioans about the powerful drug fentanyl after Prince’s autopsy reveals the artist’s cause of death was “self-administered fentanyl.”
“We’ve seen what’s coming into the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Lab, as far as drug submissions from law enforcement around the state, and statistics show how dramatically fentanyl is on the rise in Ohio,” said DeWine. “In 2010, we had only 34 cases of fentanyl and last year we had 1,110 cases. We’re on track this year to surpass 2015 numbers.”
BCI Labs in Ohio (London, Richfield, and Bowling Green) are seeing mostly synthetic (as opposed to prescription) fentanyl, which first appeared in 2013 in Ohio. It’s 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse. Sometimes it’s cut with other substances, like cocaine or heroin. Heroin is still the number one drug that’s brought to the BCI Lab for testing in criminal cases, however the number of heroin cases overall are declining, while fentanyl case numbers continue to rise.
Ohio coroners are also seeing deadly and startling results from fentanyl’s impact:
- Franklin County: In Franklin County, there were 13 fentanyl-related deaths in 2014, 48 in 2015, and 16 deaths in the first quarter of 2016. (Source: Franklin County Coroner’s Office)
- Cuyahoga County: In Cuyahoga County in 2016, there were 19 fentanyl-related deaths in January, 24 in February, 34 in March, 26 in April, and 37 in May. (Source: Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office)
- Montgomery County: Montgomery County reported fentanyl was present in 46 accidental overdose deaths in January and February of this year. There were 128 deaths in 2015. (Source: Montgomery County Coroner’s Office)
“This opiate epidemic is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said DeWine. “We can’t continue to lose three to four people a day to opiate overdoses. Fentanyl is the latest substance to rise to the top of the alarming drug trend in our state.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine created a Heroin Unit in 2013, which helps local law enforcement agencies with investigations and prosecutions. It also includes Heroin Unit Outreach Specialists who help communities combat the opiate problem. In addition, much training is provided to law enforcement on different topics like how to treat overdose scenes as crime scenes and how to administer the drug naloxone in overdose situations. BCI agents and forensic scientists just sponsored a Fentanyl Investigation and Awareness Training day for law enforcement with the DEA on June 1, 2016.