Meth, spiked drugs and overdoses stir concern among Ohio authorities confronted with new battles brought on by pandemic

Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 7:06 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Covid-19 may have shut down Ohio for several weeks, but it didn’t shut down the drug trade.

Since the pandemic hit, the type of drugs on our streets has changed in some towns.

19 Investigates found agents are seeing more dangerous and deadly overdoses.

Dramatic arrests, months in the making, were caught on police body cameras recently.

DEA agents and Ashland County Sheriff’s deputies searched a house for a Wooster couple accused of selling meth to undercover agents.

They found them in a surprising hiding place.

“There’s a hole in the floor,” a law enforcement agent said.

Another picked up a rug off the floor.

“Yup. They’re underneath it probably. Get up now. Show me your hands,” he said.

A man and a woman were hiding inside a makeshift crawlspace underneath the floorboards.

It was an investigation that started before the pandemic and just wrapped up in August.

Medway DEA tracks down drugs in Wayne County and the city of Brunswick.

Jason Waddell is its director.

“When Covid hit, everything pretty much shut down,” he said.

He said their investigation changed during the lockdown.

“We were doing physical surveillance, we learned where they were getting it from. We learned other associates they were dealing with, with this drug,” Waddell said.

Undercover buys and working with informants face-to-face were put on hold.

At the same time, drug prices shot through the roof.

“Soon as Covid hit and the borders got shut down, the commerce got shut down with it and with that the influx of drugs into our country got shut down, and that impacted us all the way up here in Northeast Ohio. Our drug crisis went, almost doubled, in short period of time. And when you could find the drugs, they were usually cut up with something else,” Waddell said.

Meth is usually a big problem in Wayne County. But Waddell said it slowed during this time.

Instead, dangerous drug overdoses picked up.

Counterfeit pills mimicking Aleve and pain pills took its place.

“A lot of the drugs they were overdosing on appeared to be prescription medication, and when we’d send these out to BCI crime lab they were coming back as almost pure fentanyl,” Waddell said.

Counterfeit Aleve pills confiscated by Doylestown Police contained fentanyl.
Counterfeit Aleve pills confiscated by Doylestown Police contained fentanyl.(Doylestown Police)

Somewhere in their area, they realized a clandestine lab is making pills.

Waddell said they’ve had a couple of overdose deaths and there would be a lot more if it weren’t for Narcan.

“If you think you’re taking one pill and you’re not ready for the hit that a fentanyl pill is going to give you, you’re talking pure fentanyl and overdosing,” Waddell said.

He said counterfeit pills are coming from cities like Cleveland and Akron.

And they’re seeing meth use pick up again to where it was before the pandemic, usually coming from cities like Columbus and Canton.

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