COLUMBUS — Take a penny out of your pocket. Or borrow one from somebody. Heck, look around on the ground, and you’ll probably find one.
Now go get a salt shaker and carefully remove 32 grains.
Yes, grains, as in the tiny specks that you sprinkle all over your french fries.
Place those grains on the penny. Can you see them? The pile should be just about enough to “barely cover Lincoln’s chin,” said state Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson).
Now consider this: It takes about that much fentanyl to kill a person.
Kill, as in dead, as a doornail.
That’s according to LaRose, who has reintroduced legislation to increase the penalties for drug pushers selling or otherwise providing fentanyl-laced heroin or related products to others.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the state is in the middle of a drug epidemic.
People are getting hooked on heroin and prescription painkillers and then dying as a result in record numbers.
Last year, a record 3,050 people breathed their last thanks to unintentional drug overdoses, according to state health statistics.
Fentanyl pushed those numbers higher, accounting for 1,155 deaths — a huge jump considering such deaths were in the single digits just a few years ago.
“It is an opiate that is 30-50 times more potent than heroin,” LaRose said.
The main thing keeping Ohio’s overdose deaths from soaring higher is the growing and widespread use of naloxone, the overdose-reversing drug that officers, emergency responders and others are putting to use on a daily basis.
A dose of fentanyl barely the size of Lincoln’s beard on that penny is considered lethal. And that should strike fear in the hearts of everyone, particularly those of us with kids at home.
The current biennial budget debate is going to include ample talk about the state’s efforts to tackle drug abuse and addiction.
There will be calls for more spending on programs to help law enforcement deal with the problem at the local level.
There will be calls for increased money for treatment program and other services to help addicted residents.
Gov. John Kasich will continue to urge communities to take up the fight. He’ll continue to encourage parents and teachers and coaches and others to regularly remind Ohio’s youth of the dangers of drug use.
And lawmakers like LaRose will continue to offer legislation to tackle the issue.
In the meantime, go home and tell your kids and everybody you know, as often as possible, that heroin is ruining people’s lives.
Add fentanyl to the mix and you’re looking at an even more deadly combination.
LaRose had a small plastic bag filled with white powder to show the Senate’s Judiciary Committee just how little fentanyl was considered fatal.
“Fentanyl is more than three times more potent than cyanide, which is obviously known as a deadly substance,” he said. “This stuff is three times more deadly than that… The lethal dose of fentanyl, enough to kill any one of us, is 2 mg, which you can see here … it looks like somebody took a powdered doughnut out of a bag.”
The bag he had in committee a few days back wasn’t the real stuff, either.
“If it was, I’d be wearing a hazmat suit, because our law enforcement personnel are being advised that if they come onto a scene and suspect that there’s fentanyl there, they’re to call hazmat,” he said. “It’s that dangerous.”
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.