The opioid crisis took 50,000 lives in 2016 and is showing no signs of slowing down. While many accidental overdoses last year involved Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid analgesic, there is an even more dangerous drug hitting the streets, Carfentanil.
What is Carfentanil?
Carfentanil is an extremely powerful tranquilizer that is intended for use on elephants and other large animals. According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), it is the most potent commercial opioid in the world.
- 10,000 times more potent that morphine
- 100 times more powerful that fentanyl (which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin)
- Can be absorbed through the skin, or inhalation of airborne powder
- Often sold disguised as heroin
- Deadly for humans
- Manufactured in China
The Dangers of Carfentanil
Carfentanil is so deadly that is has been considered a chemical weapon, yet this is not stopping drug dealers from cutting heroin with small doses of it in order to make the heroin more potent. Last year, carfentanil-laced heroin led to 300 overdoses in just a few weeks. While the epidemic began in Ohio last fall, it has now expanded around the country to Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Illinois.
Despite efforts from the DEA to raise awareness about this deadly drug, the number of overdoses continues to rise. Not only are just a few grains enough to cause a fatal overdose but carfentanil is extremely resistant to naloxone, the opioid antidote used during a heroin overdose. Responders are sometimes administering as many as six doses of the antidote – to no avail.
How to Protect Yourself
Carfentanil is so dangerous that DEA agents, EMT responders, and medical examiners have to wear protective gear when handling the drug or assisting someone who is experiencing an overdose. Officials carry naloxone for themselves in the case of accidental exposure. Since even miniscule amounts of the drug can lead to death, there is really only one way to protect yourself from carfentanil: that is to stay away from all drugs.
Heroin is dangerous enough, but when it is laced with carfentanil, is a guaranteed death sentence. It is impossible to know what the drugs are laced with, which is why it is important to seek help for opioid addictions.