With the latest update that more than 230 people have overdosed on opiates
in Akron this month, it's becoming impossible not to confront the new scourge that investigators are zeroing in on: an influx of animal tranquilizers into the Midwest's heroin supply network.
This is heavy-duty stuff. Two extremely potent drugs are have cropped up across Ohio and Kentucky very recently: carfentanil (elephant sedative) and W-18
(a synthetic opioid with no known clinical use), each couple with an already rising tide of fentanyl supply. No one is entirely sure where these drugs are coming from. Law enforcement officials have publicly suspected a link between organized crime in the States and unregulated pharmaceutical outfits in China.
Akron police have pointed to carfentanil in their city's rising overdose rate. The drug has also appeared in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus heroin supplies. W-18 has shown up across New England.
From the Associated Press
A man suspected of selling carfentanil as heroin was indicted this week in central Ohio on 20 counts, including murder, in connection with a July 10 death and nine other overdoses that happened within hours of one another. Some of the surviving users told investigators they thought they were buying heroin, but testing found none, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said. The suspect, 36-year-old Rayshon Alexander, pleaded not guilty.
Relatedly, back in April, Elyria saw an outbreak in overdoses
that was attributed to U4700 and 3-methylfentanyl, two powerful chemical analogs of fentanyl.
Between the theft or purchase of animal tranquilizers and the synthesis of new opioids, the network behind the country's worst public health crisis has grown staggering.
Just this week, authorities in Wayne County began working a theft case
in which someone stole thousands of tramadol and phenobarbital pills, along with liquid ketamine and liquid fentanyl, from the
Country Corner Animal Clinic in Kidron, Ohio.