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An elephant sedative is causing a drug epidemic

Maksimchuk Vitaly | Getty Images

A potent opioid called carfentanil has led to hundreds of overdoses in Ohio, overwhelming police and first responders.

Cincinnati suffered 174 overdoses in just six days in late August, according to NPR. The surge in the city is a sign of a shift from heroin to synthetic opioids, which can be far more potent and dangerous. Although the pace has slowed since then, there are still an average of 20 to 25 overdoses a day in the city, and there is no reason to believe the numbers will subside.

Carfentanil is used to sedate elephants, and, like the similar but less potent fentanyl, is dangerous even to touch with bare hands.

Overdoses require naxolone, in higher doses than heroin or other synthetic opioids.

As CNBC has reported, demand for naxolone has been rising, and prices of some branded versions of the drug have skyrocketed.

Read NPR's full story here.