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Ohio reclassifies 9 synthetic opioids as Schedule I

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(The Center Square) – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reclassified nine synthetic opioids as Schedule I narcotics, effectively banning their sale and use in the state.

The nine, known as nitazenes, were created decades ago as alternatives for morphine but were never approved for medical use. DeWine said new compounds are being found in the illegal drug supply throughout the state more often.

“These are extremely dangerous substances being designed by clandestine chemists in an attempt to skirt the law while keeping them highly addictive,” DeWine said. “My administration is doing everything in our power to rapidly detect and schedule these types of compounds to ensure that law enforcement has the tools they need to prosecute those who make and sell these potentially lethal substances to the fullest extent of the law.”

DeWine said the nine could be more potent than other Schedule I opioids like heroin or fentanyl and present a higher risk of unintentional drug poisoning and death.

The emergency order came after an early detection process developed by the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center, along with RecoveryOhio, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and a group of forensic toxicologists and chemists that operates as the Emerging Drug Scientific Working Group.

The detection process is designed to collect reports from law enforcement and forensic labs and identify, analyze and triage information on emerging drugs that are not controlled substances.

In 2020, three confirmed overdose deaths were connected to the newly-banned compounds. In 2021 and 2022, that number moved to 57. Still incomplete, 2023 data show 77 deaths linked to nitazene.

DeWine said that due to under reporting, the actual number of overdose deaths involving nitazene is expected to be much higher.

The executive order suspends the regular rulemaking process to allow the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to immediately classify these nine nitazene compounds as Schedule I controlled substances, making the sale and trafficking of these compounds a criminal offense.

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