Powerful drug cartels in the U.S., South America and China are being joined by domestic illegal drug producers who filter the poison to a dealer network that frequently ends with drugs changing hands in someone’s living room. At least 16,971 Ohioans died of drug overdoses from 2010 to 2016. The composite picture is predominantly a white male, never married, age 25 to 54, with a high school education or less, reports the Columbus Dispatch. The flow of illegal drugs has been changing recently in a dramatic way. The new king of the jungle is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin that is being mixed with heroin, cocaine and even marijuana to hook users.
Fentanyl has overwhelmed the drug underworld in the past year, says Sam Quinones, author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” a book focusing on Ohio’s black tar heroin crisis. “Fentanyl has democratized the opiate business,” he said. “Now, you don’t have to control territory in Mexico where they grow the opium poppy. You can buy it (fentanyl) on the ‘dark web’ or you can make it anywhere. It can be shipped anywhere. Fentanyl has totally taken over. When a person dies from an overdose on the street, that is not a warning, it’s an advertisement.” A Dispatch analysis of state overdose death data shows disturbing trends. Accidental drug overdoses have jumped 162 percent in Ohio since 2010. Overdose deaths of never-married individuals have rocketed by 242 percent since 2010 and now make up more than half of the total. Victims are getting younger: In 2010, those ages 45-54 accounted for 30 percent of deaths. By 2016, that rate had fallen to 22 percent and those ages 25-34 now make up the largest group at 28 percent, a 6 percentage-point increase from 2010.