Ohio is no stranger to the opioid epidemic—for years, opioid overdoses have caused problems for our communities. And unfortunately, there are signs that a new drug may be making things worse. The synthetic opioid isotonitazene has been connected to overdose deaths in Illinois and Indiana, and now may be in Ohio.

If you or a loved one are living with a substance use disorder, you could be at increased risk for an opioid overdose. Keep reading to learn more about isotonitazene, including why it’s so dangerous, how to avoid opioid overdose, and where you can find drug addiction treatment in Ohio.

What Is Isotonitazene?

isotonitazene addiction

Isotonitazene, also called “iso,” is a designer drug that was first made decades ago as a pain relief treatment, like many other synthetic opioids. The drug is derived from a powerful opioid called etonitazene, which gives it both its pain-relieving properties and the “high” that users seek. Despite the fact that it has been around for years, the World Health Organization never approved it for marketing due to its addictive properties and risk of side effects like respiratory failure, which is side effect of many opioid pain relievers. But that hasn’t stopped the spread of this designer drug.

Though synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, have gained popularity across the United States, isotonitazene poses a unique problem because it has not yet been officially added to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) list of controlled substances. This has made it harder to track cases of isotonitazene overdoses, since it does not show up on most screenings.

While it was not approved for legal medical use around the world, isotonitazene was never banned by the DEA. This means that it was easier for the drug to be produced and sold in bordering countries and, eventually, the United States. As of now, the DEA and Department of Justice have declared an emergency and temporary placement of isotonitazene as a Schedule I drug. This means that it has been placed among the substances most likely to lead to abuse.

Why Is Isotonitazene So Dangerous?

All opioids come with certain risks attached to them, even if they are legally prescribed. But isotonitazene and other synthetic opioids are particularly dangerous because they are often combined with other lethal drugs. For example, the isotonitazene overdoses in Indiana and Illinois occurred when isotonitazene was taken alongside cocaine.

Current research suggests that isotonitazene was involved in many drug-related deaths in just the first seven months of 2020. Unfortunately, this leads experts to believe that the death rate will only continue to increase as this synthetic opioid gains popularity and widespread distribution in the United States.

There are other factors that make isotonitazene deadly, however. Notably, drug use in general has increased over the past 12 months, largely due to the mental health effects of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, the CDC reported an uptick in substance use rates, and the greater frequency of drug abuse could lend itself to isotonitazene’s potential for a high mortality rate.

As COVID-19 swept through the country and through the state of Ohio, it brought new challenges to individuals with substance use disorders. Not only has the pandemic caused excessive stress, which often leads people to turn to drugs or alcohol, but it has also prevented Ohioans from receiving necessary health care services. All of this serves to worsen mental health and addiction throughout Ohio.

For example, individuals living with chronic pain may not have access to health care professionals like doctors, physical therapists, or counselors who normally help manage their pain. Consequently,  As a result, they might feel that they have to illegally use opioids for pain relief.

Though some drug addiction treatment centers are unable to safely provide treatment during the pandemic, there are still recovery centers in Ohio that offer safe and effective programs to help those in need of treatment at this time.

Opioid Drug Overdoses: Symptoms and Safety

Ohio opioid abuse

The symptoms of drug overdose are more varied than many people realize. People do not usually go from being fine one instant to being near death the next—there is a spectrum of symptoms between those extremes. Common overdose symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Rapid or declining heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations or delusions

If you or someone you know display signs of a drug overdose, you should call 911 for immediate medical attention. In most cases, medical staff are not obligated to report drug use, and their only priority will be keeping you safe.

Opioid drug overdoses have a high chance at being fatal as a result of these severe symptoms. Unfortunately, Ohio has one of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country, and the majority of these deaths are related to synthetic opioid use

Whether it’s prescription opioids, heroin, fentanyl, or a newly popular opioid like isotonitazene, the root problem is not using any certain drug, but suffering from a substance use disorder. And whether or not you successfully avoid opioid overdoses for now, the only surefire way to stay safe is to address your drug addiction directly.

Ohio Drug Addiction Treatment Options

As synthetic opioids continue to pose a public health risk, drug rehabilitation services like those at Ridgeview Hospital have been adapted to provide patients with evidence-based, effective treatment optionsHere, we offer addiction counseling in addition to a variety of other services to better your mental health, such as:

  • Residential treatment
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Relapse prevention
  • Recreational therapy
  • Continuing care

We are offering treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, in following with CDC recommendations and Ohio state guidelines. In this way, we ensure that you will be able to safely learn lifelong skills that will stay with you and keep you in recovery. Seeking help during the pandemic can be scary, but with drugs like isotonitazene on the black market, you may be in more danger from untreated substance use disorders than from treatment in a sterile medical setting.

For further information on isotonitazene, the risks of opioids, and how to get help for addiction today, give us a call at 419-863-3083 or submit a confidential contact form online. Your safety is important, and the best thing you can do for yourself is get help and avoid the dangers of the Ohio opioid epidemic. 

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