DeWine authorizes emergency ban of nine synthetic opioids

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order on June 4 authorizing the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to immediately classify nine synthetic opioids as Schedule I controlled substances, effectively banning their sale and use in the state and making the sale and trafficking of these compounds a criminal offense.

These opioids are known as nitazenes. According to a news release from the DeWine administration, they were developed decades ago as potential alternatives for morphine but were never approved for medical use. According to the release, new nitazene compounds are increasingly being found in the illicit drug supply in Ohio as they are frequently mixed with other controlled substances, such as cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine, and they are often more potent than other Schedule I opioids such as heroin or fentanyl and could lead to death if taken in excess.

Major Jim Baker, of Lima Police Investigative Services, said the department’s drug task force has not seen an increase in synthetic opioid cases but expects to see the cases increase in the future. Since 2020, the task force has handled more than 200 cases involving fentanyl, with 50% of those cases involving a mix of synthetic opioids.

Nitazene compounds are becoming increasingly involved in overdose deaths in Ohio. According to DeWine’s news release, as recently as 2020, just three overdose deaths involving nitazene compounds were confirmed and reported to the Ohio Department of Health. However, a significant jump occurred in 2021 and 2022, which saw an average of 57 such deaths per year.

Although 2023 data is not yet complete, ODH recorded 77 nitazene-involved overdose deaths for the year. Due to under-reporting, the true number of overdose deaths involving nitazene compounds is expected to be much higher. Synthetic opioids are the primary cause of death related to unintentional drug poisonings in the United States.

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy has now emergency scheduled a total of 17 nitazene compounds since 2020.

Like other synthetic opioids, overdoses involving nitazene compounds can be reversed using naloxone. Multiple doses of naloxone may be needed to reverse an overdose involving synthetic opioids.

For more information regarding this emergency action, visit For more information about obtaining free naloxone, visit