People Are Substituting Heroin For Cocaine And Overdoses Are Skyrocketing

REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Drug users afraid of the rising fatalities surrounding opioids are increasingly turning to cocaine in Ohio, causing a massive spike in fatal overdoses attributed to the substance.

Officials in Ohio say many addicts and recreational drug users believe cocaine is safer than heroin, and less likely to be cut with powerful and deadly substances. Authorities say this misconception is starting to cost lives in the state, particularly in Lorain and Cuyahoga County. While heroin continues to be the deadliest drug in Cuyahoga, cocaine deaths are so far surpassing heroin fatalities in Lorain this year, reports ABC 5 Cleveland.

Authorities say many of the overdose deaths are linked to the presence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller known to be roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The influx of synthetic opioids like fentanyl are largely blamed for the current heroin epidemic, but police stress these deadly substances are appearing in an array of illicit narcotics.

“These are young people, most of these people that are dying are between 20 and 40 years old,” Dr. Stephen Evans, the Lorain County coroner, told ABC 5 Cleveland. “The agony and the tragedy are overwhelming to the people it’s happening to, it’s overwhelming to the coroner’s office, the police departments, we are seeing so much death it’s out of control. They’re afraid to use heroin, so they are substituting cocaine and think it’s safer, when actually obviously it’s not.”

Fentanyl is the leading drug killer in Lorain County but cocaine and cocaine mixed with fentanyl follow closely behind. Fentanyl is infiltrating drug supplies across the country because of how cheap the substance is compared to standard narcotics.

While a kilogram of heroin from a Mexican cartel will cost a domestic supplier roughly $64,000, they can order a kilogram of fentanyl through the mail from China for as little as $2,000.

Authorities are very concerned about the rising prevalence of synthetic opioids in cocaine supplies, because the substance is more widely used as a social drug.

They fear that users are largely unaware of fentanyl being cut up with cocaine and say it will likely fuel more death in the region. Less than half a teaspoon of pure fentanyl is enough to kill 10 people.

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Steve Birr