Authorities in opioid-ravaged Ohio said “at least 1,500 lives” were saved by a massive drug bust involving fentanyl-laced pills labeled as oxycodone.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland indicted three men Thursday for trying to traffic and distribute 1,500 pills containing fentanyl following their arrest April 17. Officials charged 36-year-old Gerald Bowerman, 34-year-old Emmett Nelson and 22-year-old Cortney Williams with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, reported ABC 6.
Fentanyl is fueling an increase in overdose deaths as drug dealers increasingly cut the substance into heroin, cocaine and pill supplies to maximize profits.
“This case is another stark reminder that drugs bought on the street don’t come with a verified list of ingredients and people have no idea what they are putting into their body,” said U.S. attorney Justin Herdman in a statement Thursday. “Those who make the mistake of trying these drugs can be making the last mistake of their lives. These arrests helped save at least 1,500 lives.”
Opioids are killing a record number of people in Ohio, which now has the second highest death rate from drug overdoses in the U.S. behind only West Virginia.
The state lost 4,329 residents to drug overdoses in 2016 — a 24-percent increase over 2015 — due to the worsening opioid epidemic spreading death throughout the country. Nearly 40 in 100,000 people in the state now die from drug-related overdoses in Ohio.
The number of opioid deaths would be much higher without the presence of the overdose reversal drug naloxone or Narcan, officials said. Ohio first responders administered roughly 43,000 doses of naloxone in 2016.
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