LIMA — A drug bust last month in Montgomery County that turned up a cache of carfentanil — a highly potent synthetic opioid — has shed light on what Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost terms a “bad milestone” in the state’s fight against the use of and addiction to painkillers.
Yost discussed the recent seizure when he met with editors at The Lima News Friday afternoon, shortly after serving as the guest speaker at the Allen County Republican Party’s monthly luncheon. The attorney general said the first large-scale discovery of carfentanil in the state is a major cause for concern.
“We’re sounding the alarm; this is something the law enforcement community needs to be aware of. This is very dangerous stuff,” Yost said.
The attorney general put that danger into definitively clear terms.
“We’ve gotten comfortable with the notion of Narcan as a cure-all” for persons who overdose on traditional opiates, the AG said. “But with carfentanil, if they OD … it’s all over. They will die.”
Yost has been at the forefront of Ohio’s battle against opioid use and addiction since his days as a prosecuting attorney. More recently he guided the state’s efforts to hold drug manufacturers and distributors responsible for actions that have left thousands of Ohio residents addicted to painkillers.
Last month two Ohio counties — Summit and Cuyahoga — reached an out-of-court settlement with the nation’s three biggest drug distributors that called for those firms to pay upwards of $300 million to the counties for the toll their products have taken in northeast Ohio. The deal averted what would have been the first federal trial over the crisis.
While Yost was happy to see money coming to the Buckeye State for the battle against opioid addiction, he believes those funds would be best used if spread out throughout the state.
“I thought the state should have control over the lawsuit, and I still think that,” Yost said. “But what the governor (Republican Mike DeWine) and I agree on is that the money needs to flow to the local level. However we settle the legal issues and whoever controls the litigation, ultimately the governor and I want to see the money flowing down to the local level to do good. We’re never gonna get access to a bundle of cash like this again, and we’ve gotta put it all down on trying to break the back of this opioid epidemic.”
While some numbers suggest that epidemic has peaked, Yost said figures can be misleading.
“Opioid-related deaths were down in 2018, but I don’t think that represents a decrease in use but rather is due to the widespread availability of Narcan” to save lives, he said.
“Eighty percent of addictions in the United States start in the medicine cabinet. People then move from pharmaceutical pills to heroin. But that is already changing. The way these drugs are prescribed has changed. The number of pills has decreased, the monitoring by physicians for addiction problems has increased and there’s much more education” involving the disposal of leftover drugs, said Yost.
“Addiction has always been out there. It exploded in the late 1990s because doctors were handing this stuff out thinking that it wasn’t gonna be a problem. Victory will be when we get to the base level of addiction that we’ve always had. There will always be heroin and meth and alcohol addictions out there. I think the best we can say is that we’ve stopped the growth curve, but I don’t think we’ve turned the corner.
“The biggest push for the future has to be prevention. The governor cares about this problem so deeply and is committed to making a difference,” the AG said.