Carfentanil, also known as “China girl,” “drop dead,” or “gray death,” is one of the most toxic opioids ever created and was developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical in 1974 and sold by the name of Wildnil®. Users rarely become addicted because only about 20 micrograms, which is less than a grain of salt, is enough to be fatal. Find out more about common side effects and signs of a carfentanil overdose.
Carfentanil is a powerful and deadly drug derived from fentanyl. Often found in veterinary medicine, this drug is mainly used to sedate large animals, such as elephants and bears. It is not meant for humans. Carfentanil, similar to fentanyl, has been found cut into heroin in order to increase its potency and the heroin dealer’s supply. The drug is about 100 times more potent than fentanyl and a 2-milligram dose is enough for a user to overdose.
Popular names of Carfentanil include:
- Drop dead
- Serial killer
- Gray death
- China girl
- China white
In its liquid form, carfentanil is colorless and odorless. Carfentanil is normally concealed in other drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and sometimes cocaine, making it one of the main reasons it’s difficult to identify. It also comes in tablets, patches, and sprays. In powder form, it has a white or pale yellow color, similar to heroin. On some occasions, it’s been reported that the drug can be shades of brown or pink.
Carfentanil can be smoked, snorted, or injected. It’s also been reported in pill form, resembling prescription drugs.
Some of the short-term effects of carfentanil include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Pinpoint pupils
- Runny nose
Carfentanil, originally created as a large animal tranquilizer, is considered the most powerful opioid; a few grains are enough to kill someone. The drug is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and can easily be hidden in other drugs, which makes it harder to detect. Most users only use the drug for a short period of time before they experience an overdose. It’s not guaranteed that naloxone will revive someone who overdosed on carfentanil.
Law enforcement and health officials must take extreme caution and wear gloves and masks when handling carfentanil because inhalation and touching the drug can be harmful. This was discovered back in 2002 when Russian Special Forces attempted to regain control of a movie theater overrun by terrorists by using an aerosol spray containing traces of carfentanil, in which over 100 of the hostages died.
If someone has been taking very small and extremely diluted amounts of carfentanil, there’s a slight chance they can avoid an overdose, but will most likely become immediately addicted. The long-term effects of carfentanil are:
- Periods of confusion
- Depression and suicidal behavior
- Slurred speech
- Constant scratching
- Rapid, significant weight loss
- Respiratory depression
- Severe gastrointestinal issues
Carfentanil addiction is rare. Many individuals often use carfentanil unknowingly, since it’s difficult to detect. Those who frequently use other drugs like heroin, cocaine, or fentanyl may be the ones most at risk for accidentally using carfentanil. Another sign is if the person is constantly exhausted and sleeping at odd times of the day. If you notice the person using the street names listed above in casual conversation, that’s another potential sign of addiction.
Experts are still unsure of the precise amount it takes for the users to experience an overdose, but a toxic amount could be smaller than a grain of salt depending on the individual. When carfentanil is combined with other drugs, the chance for overdose is greater. Signs of a carfentanil overdose include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Shallow or stopped breathing
- Slow, erratic, or absent pulse
- Pale or bluish skin and nails
- Clammy or cold skin
It may take several doses of naloxone to reverse the effects of a carfentanil overdose, but only if used immediately after exposure.
Detox is the first step in addiction treatment for carfentanil. Detoxing from opioids is a challenging process, especially with a drug as powerful as carfentanil. It’s strongly advised that the person going through carfentanil withdrawal does so under strict supervision of medical professionals to help them safely taper off the drug. Medication-Assisted Treatment is a crucial step in the process, combining addiction medication, counseling, and behavioral therapy. Carfentanil withdrawal symptoms include:
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Goosebumps and chills
- High blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate
- Muscle spasms
- Bone and muscle pain
- Dilated (enlarged) pupils
- Runny nose
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Detox eliminates the physical dependency on carfentanil, but inpatient (residential) or outpatient rehabilitation programs are just as important to target the psychological part of the recovery process. Individuals are surrounded by professionals who can help them stay sober and focus on their mental health. For further treatment, it’s recommended that the person in recovery join a community living program and regularly attend 12 Step meetings. Afterwards, outpatient treatment helps people recovering from carfentanil to continue their sobriety efforts and maintain healthy habits in their life outside of rehabilitation.
Holistic therapies are proven to help ease cravings and assist in carfentanil addiction treatment. Individuals who used carfentanil to alleviate pain can experience similar relief through acupuncture. Yoga and meditation may reduce drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, as well as provide a healthy outlet to cope with daily stressors and triggers.
Carfentanil is the most powerful opioid in the US and simply coming into contact with trace amounts of the drug can jeopardize your health and safety. Because it is often mixed in with heroin and other drugs, many users are unaware that they’re addicted until it’s too late.
If you or a loved one is struggling with carfentanil addiction, know that you are not alone. Our team of medical, clinical, and wellness experts are here to help you break free from addiction and achieve the happy, healthy life you deserve.