LIMA — While numbers concerning heroin use and opioid deaths in Ohio continue to rise, a new trend is beginning to surface where non-opioid drugs are being laced with fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid pain medication, causing potentially fatal overdoses.
That was the message from Judge Tammie Hursh of Lima Municipal Court, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin and others during a presentation Wednesday at Mayor David Berger’s weekly news conference. During his remarks, Martin said marijuana users could even be at risk of exposure to fentanyl.
“We have seen fentanyl-laced marijuana here in the state of Ohio,” he said. “Some young person, thinking they are just going to get a simple marijuana high — no big deal — could smoke it and potentially lead to an overdose. If you have someone thinking they’re just smoking a joint and it turns out they’re ingesting fentanyl, it could lead to a very tragic consequence.”
Fentanyl is even changing how police officers test for the drug because of the risk of accidental exposure.
“That has caused officers to succumb to the overdose of fentanyl and substances like that, and officers have had to bring them back with Narcan,” Martin said.
Treatment centers in Lima are seeing increased opioid abuse, even from those not thinking they are using the drug. In other cases, drug users may think they are using opiates when they are, in fact, unknowingly taking other drugs, including prescription drugs such as Percocet. During the presentation, it was estimated that as many as one in 20 illicit drugs could be laced with fentanyl.
“The scary thing is that 75 percent of our clients — and we serve about 90 clients — are opiate users,” said Jay Simpson, treatment coordinator with Lima Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program. “Oftentimes when they come in, they will state they have been using opiates, but the results from a urinalysis test is that there are no opiates in their system. So, oftentimes, they have been sold something without their knowledge, which is very scary. They’re using fentanyl thinking that it’s heroin. They’re using cocaine with fentanyl in it as well. We’re finding marijuana with fentanyl in it, which is also scary.”