Federal prosecutors say Griggs, known as “Benz” or “Ben,” admitted supplying heroin to all 26 people, who overdosed immediately after taking the drugs. Laboratory tests of blood and urine samples showed traces not only of heroin, but also of fentanyl and carfentanil — synthetic opioids that are exponentially more powerful than heroin or morphine.
Carfentanil, used for tranquilizing elephants and other large mammals, is 10,000 times as strong as morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Last year, the federal agency warned that illegal use of carfentanil is becoming more common and has been linked to a significant number of overdose deaths in the country.
Matt Boggs, executive director of Recovery Point of Huntington, said the torrent of 911 calls Aug. 15 deeply alarmed a community already ravaged by the opioid epidemic.
“To have such a significant amount of overdoses in one day is indicative that the substance that's being sold is containing something very, very poisonous,” Boggs told The Washington Post. “It was definitely alarming, and it really put the community in a state of disbelief, a state of terror, almost.”
No one died as a result of the overdoses.
West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country.
In Huntington, a small city of about 49,000 people, deaths from drug overdoses are nearly 10 times the national average. About 8,000 residents — roughly 16 percent of its population — are addicted to drugs, most of which are opioids, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Griggs, of Akron, Ohio, will be sentenced in April.