Alan Johnson The Columbus Dispatch @ohioajCatherine Candisky The Columbus Dispatch @ccandisky
This is a story about how illegal drugs get into Ohio — and the faces of the people they kill.
Ohio’s drug epidemic has predators and prey.
The predators: Powerful drug cartels in the United States, South America and China are being joined by domestic illegal drug producers who filter the poison to a dealer network that frequently ends with drugs changing hands in someone’s living room.
The prey: At least 16,971 Ohioans died of drug overdoses from 2010 to 2016. The composite picture is predominantly a white male, never married, age 25 to 54, with a high school education or less.
The flow of illegal drugs has been changing recently in a dramatic way. The new king of the jungle is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin that is being mixed with heroin, cocaine and even marijuana to hook users.
Fentanyl has overwhelmed the drug underworld in the past year, said Sam Quinones, a journalist and author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” a book that illuminated America’s opioid addiction by focusing on Ohio’s black tar heroin crisis.
“Fentanyl has democratized the opiate business,” Quinones said. “Now, you don’t have to control territory in Mexico where they grow the opium poppy. You can buy it (fentanyl) on the ‘dark web’ or you can make it anywhere. It can be shipped anywhere.”
“Fentanyl has totally taken over,” he said. “When a person dies from an overdose on the street, that is not a warning, it’s an advertisement.”
Faces of victims
A Dispatch analysis of state overdose death figures for the years 2010 to 2016 from the Ohio Department of Health shows several disturbing trends:
• Accidental drug overdoses have jumped 162 percent in Ohio