I was living in the city of Detroit in 2006 when Fentanyl hit the streets. Laced with heroin, it killed 1,000 people in one month in Detroit alone.
Fifty times more potent than heroin, Fentanyl has been a street drug for decades, but it faded somewhat in recent years. It made a lethal comeback this year, especially on the East Coast. Now it’s casting a deadly shadow across northwest Ohio.
After averaging 12 fatal heroin-related overdoses a month this year, northwest Ohio recorded 17 of them in August, most of them in Lucas County, Dr. Robert Forney, Lucas County's chief toxicologist, told me this week. And six of the 17 heroin-related fatalities in August involved Fentanyl, a super-potent painkiller that is sometimes mixed with heroin to provide an extra kick.
The six Fentanyl deaths in August included this year’s youngest heroin-related overdose victim: a 17-year-old boy.
Before August, Fentanyl-related overdoses were uncommon in the Toledo area.
Anyone who thinks these new deaths will deter people from using heroin doesn't understand addiction. Many addicts will just want to know where they can get it. Of course, they figure they'll be more careful and beat the odds.
When you buy heroin today, you don't know what you're getting. Street heroin — generally 10 percent to 90 percent pure — is mixed, or cut, with a variety of products, including lactose, Dormin, Benadryl, Sleepinal, even talcum powder. Dealers generally use additives to dilute, or stretch, the product to make more money.
Fentanyl is added to spike the heroin. Heroin-Fentanyl cocktails are called "Magic," "Theraflu," "Bud Light," or other alluring names.
Fatal Toledo-area overdoses more than doubled last year, to 80. This year, the local death toll is on pace nearly to double again, hitting 98 by the end of August, Dr. Forney said.
An editoiral in tomorrow's Blade will talk more about it. Initiatives like Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp's addiction resource unit will need a lot more help in the coming months. So will the coroner's office.
"This epidemic isn’t plateauing — it’s going up,’’ Dr. Forney said.