Why Ohioans Need to Know the Signs of Fentanyl Overdose in 2021

signs of fentanyl overdose

Over the last decade, the state of Ohio has been hit hard with the drug crisis. Recently, fentanyl has been central to this crisis. Due to this, residents of Ohio should know the signs of a fentanyl overdose. This is because if you are around illicit drugs in Ohio, you are likely to be exposed to this potent drug.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is cheap, dangerous, and has saturated Ohio’s drug supply. Learn more about which drugs in Ohio contain fentanyl and how to avoid becoming a fentanyl overdose victim.

Fentanyl began appearing in Ohio in 2014. That year, the drug was responsible for about 20 percent of drug overdose deaths. Today, only seven years later, fentanyl is responsible for nearly 80 percent of Ohio overdose deaths. This makes Ohio one of the most dangerous places to consume illegal drugs. Therefore, learning the signs of fentanyl overdose is an important safety precaution to not only those using drugs but to the friends and family members around them.

Fentanyl vs Morphine

Signs of Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl and morphine are usually compared since they share so many similarities. For example, both fentanyl and morphine have legitimate purposes in the medical field as powerful opioid pain relievers. Most often they are prescribed for surgical procedures or to help manage chronic conditions like cancer. Further, each substance comes in a variety of administration and dosing options, and both carry a significant risk of addiction.


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The main differences between fentanyl and morphine are:

  • Fentanyl is man-made in a lab while morphine is a naturally derived opioid from the poppy plant.
  • Fentanyl is more suited for long-term, chronic pain. Morphine is better for acute, short-term pain.
  • Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, making it a much more dangerous drug.

Naturally, the above comparisons refer to legally formulated fentanyl. Unfortunately, the fentanyl that is manufactured for Ohio’s illicit drug supply is made illegally. This means that there is no way to know exactly what is in the substance or its potency.

Which Drugs in Ohio Contain Fentanyl?

Which Drugs in Ohio Contain Fentanyl?

Due to its low cost, fentanyl makes it into a variety of drug combinations. This way, drug traffickers can add it to their drug supplies in order to stretch out quantities and increase profits. This is the case in Ohio, where most of the supply is considered to be laced drugs.

According to Harm Reduction Ohio, 27 percent of all drugs in Ohio contained fentanyl as of August 2021. The breakdown per drug was as follows:

  • Cocaine laced with fentanyl: 17%
  • Meth laced with fentanyl: 5%
  • Heroin laced with fentanyl: 80%

Additionally, 11 percent of drugs in Ohio tested registered as fentanyl-only. Unfortunately, it is not clear what fentanyl-only drugs are being marketed as. This means that people may not know they’re taking it, which makes fentanyl overdose much more likely.

Fentanyl is an opioid and is considered a “downer” drug in slang terms. Therefore, it makes sense that someone using stimulants or “upper” drugs like cocaine or meth would not be looking out for signs of fentanyl overdose. But in Ohio, fentanyl has made its way into nearly every type of drug, making opioid awareness and the understanding of overdose symptoms important for every drug user.

Signs of Fentanyl Overdose

Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid. Therefore, what’s been dubbed the “opioid overdose triad” applies to a fentanyl overdose. The triad includes pinpoint pupils, respiratory depression, and loss of consciousness and could indicate an overdose of any opioid.

Other signs of fentanyl overdose include:

  • Decreased breathing or heart rate
  • Sleepiness
  • Vomiting
  • Limp limbs or body
  • Blue lips
  • Clammy skin
  • Slower breathing (or not breathing)
  • Suddenly gurgling while breathing
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma

The onset of fentanyl overdose is incredibly fast. Usually, as soon as the drug has been administered, symptoms of overdose begin. It is imperative that as soon as signs of fentanyl overdose are noticed that medical professionals are called immediately. If caught in time, a drug that stops the overdose (naloxone) can be administered. Sadly, deciding to let a person “sleep it off” could be the difference between life and death.

There are a few other things you can do to prevent fentanyl overdose. These include:

  • Educating yourself and others on the signs of opioid overdose
  • Use fentanyl test strips to check drugs before using
  • Carry naloxone (Narcan) to stop an active overdose
  • Quit using drugs

Drug use can be difficult to quit alone. Fortunately, help is available in the form of addiction treatment, which offers effective methods of detoxing the body of drugs and allowing a person to heal.

Fentanyl Overdose Deaths in Brown County, Ohio

Ohio Drug Epidemic

As of October 2021, nearly 80 percent of overdoses in Ohio were due to fentanyl. This was true regardless of the drug taken. In other words, approximately 80 percent of cocaine overdose deaths were due to fentanyl. The same can be said for heroin, methamphetamine, and benzodiazepines, which is supposed to be a legal prescription. This means that drug makers are creating their own fake prescriptions laced with fentanyl and distributing them to people unknowingly.

Brown County, Ohio specifically has a history of high overdose rates compared to other counties in Ohio. In 2017, Brown County ranked fifth in the state for the highest overdose deaths. So far in 2021, Brown County ranks 10th. While this is an improvement in comparison to 2017, it is still a high placement among the nearly 80 counties in Ohio.

COVID’s Influence on the Illegal Drug Market in Ohio

Harm Reduction Ohio stresses that Ohio residents do not do more drugs than residents of other states. In fact, Ohio drug use is about average. The Ohio overdose problem stems from the poisonous drug supply, which is tainted with fentanyl.

One of the reasons that fentanyl flooded the state is due to the outbreak of COVID-19. When the coronavirus began spreading across the U.S., borders closed, forcing drug smugglers to adjust the way they were sneaking drugs into the country. In this way, drugs moving across the border had to become much smaller and less detectable. As a result, more fentanyl was trafficked due to the more concealable nature of the substance.

Sadly, this influx of fentanyl has had a devastating impact on the citizens of Ohio. If you or someone you know is struggling with any drug use, addiction treatment is recommended now more than ever.

Mental Health and Addiction Help Near Columbus, Ohio

Addiction is usually not a stand-alone issue. Rather, it is usually intertwined with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or PTSD. To address this, Georgetown Behavioral Hospital near Columbus, Ohio, offers a dual diagnosis treatment program that will take both mental health and addictive tendencies into account.

Within our treatment programs, we offer a range of modalities to ensure that each person receives an individualized treatment plan. Further, at Georgetown Behavioral Hospital we make a commitment to see you through a full continuum of care, ranging from before treatment to life after mental health care because treatment doesn’t end when treatment is over.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from mental health or substance use disorders, it is important to get help right away. Whether you are seeking a diagnosis or treatment, Georgetown Behavioral Hospital is here for you every step of the way. Call us today at 937-483-4930 or fill out our online form for more information.

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