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Heroin Epidemic: Availability of Narcan may be leading to more daring drug use

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Aug. 25–CINCINNATI — A spike in heroin overdoses in Cincinnati could be the result of more daring addicts, according to a Butler County law enforcement officer.

Police are continuing to investigate sources of the heroin that led to at least 22 overdoses in a matter of a few hours Tuesday.

A typical day sees four overdoses in the entire city, police said.

The availability of Narcan has in some ways made addicts more daring, because it can be used to counteract heroin if they overdose, said Sgt. Jason Owens of the Butler County Undercover Regional Narcotics Taskforce.

“We have seen people shooting up in front of firehouses because they know there is Narcan there,” he said.

Police in Cincinnati are not sure what exactly caused the recent surge in overdoses, but are working to identify patterns to find the source of the drug being circulated.

“I’ve got to say to whoever pushed this out on the street, this was the wrong thing to do,” said Newtown police Chief Tom Synan, head of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, “because you now have the full and undivided attention of the Hamilton County Coalition Task Force, which includes local, state and federal agencies, and I can tell you we’ll all be working with the Cincinnati Police Department to see who pushed this out on the street.”

Many of the overdoses happened on the city’s west side. Police say three people overdosed in one house and another person overdosed at a gas station with his child in the car.

The Tri-State’s opioid epidemic is well-documented, and the recent emergence of heroin strains laced with surgical anesthetics and animal tranquilizers has backed both law enforcement officers and health officials into a tight corner.

Tried and true antidotes like Narcan are sometimes not enough to reverse the effects of these deadly cocktails, and drug users who buy them may not know exactly what they’ve purchased.

The drugs are being tested to determine if they contain fentanyl or carfentanyl or perhaps rat poison — all agents mixed with heroin to produce a greater high.

Owens said anyone using intravenous drugs should be aware of increased danger.

Fentanyl, he said, is being found in about 30 percent of the heroin seized by police in Butler County.

Some of what is thought to be heroin is actually pure fentanyl, according to Owens.

This article contains additional reporting from our news partner WCPO 9 On Your Side.

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