CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Heroin Coalition is warning the public about Fentanyl on the streets.
This comes as Ohio's drug overdose epidemic continues to grow, and the use of heroin and opiates remains a primary concern for Hamilton County.
A recent uptick in the use of Fentanyl, a powerful pain reliever, is producing frightening results and requires even more tools and awareness to combat, the coalition said in a prepared statement.
"Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin, which is cheap, potent and available," said Hamilton County Commissioner Dennis Deters, the coalition chairman.
"Users are unaware that their drugs may have been cut with Fentanyl or other adulterants, which places them at even greater risk of overdose or even death."
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to morphine, but even more potent.
It is produced both legally in pharmaceutical laboratories, as well as illegally in underground laboratories.
Fentanyl can be a stand-alone drug of abuse, or can be mixed with heroin to amplify the effects of the drug.
Often times, heroin users are unaware that fentanyl has been added to their supply and continue to administer their usual dose – often with deadly results, coalition members say.
According to analysis by Hamilton County Public Health, Fentanyl was identified in just a small percentage of overdose deaths in the County in 2013.
However, in 2014, Fentanyl was detected in more than 30 percent of the 251 overdose deaths in Hamilton County, and that number is expected to rise significantly in 2015 when data is finalized, according to the coalition.
Even more telling, 61 percent of Fentanyl overdoses involved heroin, compared to 35 percent of overdoses in the other metropolitan areas in Ohio, they said.
"As we saw increases in overdoses related to Fentanyl, we took a hard look at various drug combinations, as well as a spatial analysis of deaths," said Tim Ingram, Hamilton County Health Commissioner and coalition member.
"There are a few pockets within the county that are experiencing much higher numbers of Fentanyl-related overdoses. It's important to get this information out to first responders, treatment centers and users, so they are aware of the risks and can modify behavior and treatment."
Commissioner Deters and Health Commissioner Ingram have taken the lead in providing an important tool in the fight against heroin and opiates such as Fentanyl.
Since last fall, county funding has been allocated to distribute nearly 3,400 doses of naloxone (an anti-overdose medication commonly known as "Narcan") to first responders, police departments and social services agencies.
Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan is leading the Heroin Task Force component of the Heroin Coalition to reduce the supply of drugs in Hamilton County.
"Tracking overdoses in the county helps us focus investigators and law enforcement in the areas of greatest need," the chief said. "Resources are limited and valuable, so the coordination with the Heroin Coalition and Hamilton County Public Health is critical to our efforts."
Heroin and drug addiction is a serious problem that impacts many individuals. If you or someone you know is struggling, there is help. Click here for a comprehensive list of helplines, treatment centers and counseling resources.
For more information, visit Hamilton County Public Health's website: www.hcph.org.