Ohio’s Attorney General is warning the public and law enforcement about a class of drugs more dangerous and deadly than heroin and even fentanyl.

According to a bulletin issued by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, many counties, including Mahoning, are experiencing an increased prevalence of nitazenes, a group of synthetic opioids that can be up to 40 times more potent than fentanyl.

"Frankenstein opioids are even more lethal than the drugs already responsible for so many overdose deaths," Yost said.

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation says that nitazene compounds - from a drug class known as benzimidazole-opioids - were originally synthesized in the 1950s to research their analgesic effects.

They are not approved for medical use anywhere in the world but are currently being made in clandestine labs.

In the first quarter of 2022, BCI reported 143 nitazene cases in Ohio, up from 27 cases in the same quarter of 2021.

In some instances, nitazenes are being found in combination with other drugs, primarily fentanyl and fentanyl pharmacophores but also tramadol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and PCP analogs.

Recent studies show that nitazine compounds can be anywhere from 1.5 to 40 times more potent than fentanyl.

Additional doses of naloxone may be required to reverse overdoses involving nitazene.

Officers and first responders, BCI cautions in its bulletin, should handle all items suspected of containing nitazenes or fentanyl-related substances with caution and proper personal protective equipment.

BCI says the drugs come in many forms and colors.

Ohio Specific Case Observations

  • Color: White, off-white, beige, brown, tan, gray, black, yellow, peach, orange, green
  • Form: Powder, solid substance, liquid from syringes, residues
  • Adulterants: Found primarily in combination with fentanyl and fentanyl pharmacophores. Also found in combination with tramadol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, benzodiazepine pharmacophores, and PCP analogs. Non-controlled substances that may be present include caffeine, diphenhydramine, mannitol, xylazine, and quinine.

Locations: Ohio BCI Laboratory submissions containing nitazene compounds were received from the counties depicted below:


On April 6, 2022, Gov. Mike DeWine signed Executive Order 2022-05D, giving the Ohio Board of Pharmacy the authority to add Butonitazene, Etodesnitazene, Flunitazene, Metodesnitazene, Metonitazene, N-Pyrrolidino Etonitazene and Protonitazene to the list of Schedule I Drugs in this class.