Coroner fears dealers use Cincinnati area as ‘test tube’

CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio county coroner fears the Cincinnati area has been used as a “test tube” by heroin dealers for use of a powerful animal tranquilizer.

Hamilton County’s Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco (LAK’-shmee suh-MAHR’-koh) said Tuesday tests have confirmed carfentanil (kahr-FEHN’-tuh-nihl) in the bodies of eight recent overdose casualties, and more cases are suspected. The drug can be thousands of times more powerful than morphine.

She says the intense and focused spike recently in the area raises concerns dealers wanted to see what would happen to users of carfentanil.

The head of the Hamilton County Drug Coalition task force wants Ohio to declare a public health emergency. A spokeswoman for Gov. John Kasich (KAY’-sik) says the state is continuing to work with Cincinnati area officials to strengthen prevention, treatment and other resources.