Record fentanyl adulteration in cocaine, meth

Good news: Deadly carfentanil is gone

Fentanyl has never been more pervasive in Ohio’s drug supply than it is now, a Harm Reduction Ohio analysis of state crime lab data finds.

Whether all drugs are considered or cocaine or meth, the share of seized drugs containing fentanyl (or a fentanyl analog) reached record levels across the board in 2022. Preliminary data show the trend continuing into 2023.

One bit of good news: ultra powerful and deadly carfentanil is currently absent from Ohio’s drug supply. No carfentanil has been found in seized Ohio drugs analyzed by the state crime labs since August 2021. By contrast, carfentanil was found in 1,158 samples of seized drugs in 2019 and 1,822 samples in 2017. In both cases, carfentanil drove dramatic spikes in overdose death.

Thus, although fentanyl is more pervasive than ever, Ohio’s drug supply is not the most dangerous it’s ever been. All fentanyl variants are not the same. Overdose deaths fell about 5% in 2022 vs. 2021, an indication that the drug supply was slightly less dangerous or drug use was down slightly or a combination of the two.

However, over the last ten years, Ohio’s illicit drug supply drug supply has become much more dangerous, largely because fentanyl displaced safer heroin as the primary opioid and then spread as an adulterant to other drugs. (Chart below shows decline of heroin in Ohio.)

The analysis here measures fentanyl’s presence in all illicit drugs, except marijuana. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) crime labs no longer tests seized cannabis. This doesn’t affect the value of the data because fentanyl-laced marijuana is a myth, as most Harm Reduction Ohio readers now. Marijuana is the only truly safe illicit drug in Ohio. Mushrooms also are likely free from fentanyl, although no hard data exists to confirm this.

Harm Reduction Ohio gets drug seizure data quarterly from the BCI crime labs. The latest update, received last week, brings the size of the data set to 301,710 samples of seized drugs tested for controlled substances on gas chromatography–mass spectrometry equipment since 2013. The data provides the most comprehensive and accurate look at Ohio’s drug supply.

Most people don’t know that Ohio has drug use levels that are below the national average. Our state’s overdose epidemic has been driven by dangerous adulterants coming into Ohio’s drug supply earlier than in other states. Thus, Harm Reduction Ohio’s maxim: Tell me what’s in the drug supply, and I’ll tell you how many people will die.

— Dennis Cauchon, President, Harm Reduction Ohio


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