At least eight people who overdosed and died in Cincinnati and Hamilton County since mid-July had the mega potent opioid carfentanil in their blood, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. More ominously, Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said the surge of carfentanil on Greater Cincinnati in mid-July and August raised the question of whether the region was targeted as a testing ground for dealers trying out the drug. Carfentanil is an obscure synthetic opioid normally used on elephants and other large zoo animals, as a cheaper, more easily available substitute for heroin.
“The way this was carried out in our communities in the region brought up a lot of fears… that our community was being used as a test tube,” Sammarco said yesterday. Police officers have found possible sources of carfentanil- and fentanyl-tainted heroin, said Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan. Last year’s uptick in overdose deaths due to the potent opioid fentanyl was the first evidence of this shift, which has made officials fearful because they’re new and unfamiliar. Carfentanil, a fentanyl derivative, isn’t even a controlled substance in the U.S., while fentanyl is. A number of other cities and counties across Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia, have seen a recent surge in overdoses.