Last updated: July 13, 2020
Carfentanil—another synthetic opioid—is reportedly up to 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. You would think even drug dealers would think twice about the devastation it could wreak if released on the street.
Instead, dealers mix this elephant tranquilizer with other drugs, usually unbeknownst to the buyer. And, while they may have been told that this batch is “to die for,” the dealer probably failed to add the word “literally.”
Sadly, the quest to discover the ultimate high is neverending. Drugs created for medicinal purposes find their way to the streets seemingly in no time. Laboratories in foreign countries—often China or Mexico—manufacture crude versions of the drugs. Once in the country, dealers purchase them because they’re cheap.
A cheap thrill
Drug dealers purchase carfentanil to mix with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, because it’s a cheap filler. And, oh, what joy—bonus lights flashing—it enhances the user’s experience. They view it as a win-win because it increases the amount of product they have to sell and the user is likely to be back for more.
Unless they overdose, that is.
Carfentanil, the most potent analog of fentanyl known in the United States, is found present in a growing number of cocaine and methamphetamine-related deaths across the country. It’s found in heroin-related overdose deaths too.
The alarm’s been ringing for the last several years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Ohio reported nearly 400 deaths between July and December 2016
- Florida reported more than 500 deaths in 2016
- Total reported carfentanil-related deaths July 2016 through June 2017 equaled 1,236
- 1,236 deaths represent 11.2% of the 11,045 opioid-related deaths reported to the CDC in that time period
Even addicts know it’s a bad deal
Word on the street is that carfentanil is bad news and that it’s everywhere. However, an addict suffering withdrawal—or trying to keep from it—isn’t likely to just say no. They probably spent their last dime on their fix and—hey— maybe they’ll get lucky and there isn’t any in this batch.
That’s becoming more less likely every day.
So much so that Seattle’s Public Health Insider published a March 2019 blog post issuing a public service announcement that may have been the first of its kind. They encouraged addicts—anyone, actually—to always have Naloxone on hand and to use with a friend.
Naloxone is a fast-acting drug that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Fellow druggies were strongly encouraged to contact 911 if they realized someone was experiencing signs of an overdose. Marketed under the name Narcan, the nasal spray doesn’t require a prescription.
The article appeared after multiple overdoses in Seattle happened in one day. A syringe found at the scene contained, among other things, carfentanil. The drug was rarely found in Washington at the time, but as is the case everywhere, it’s more frequent now.
Drug users that ingest carfentanil can experience dizziness, clammy skin, shallow breathing, and heart failure.
Taking the news seriously
Across the country in Boston, Massachusettes, users are offered a unique service that proves how desperate our country is to save lives. Users bring a sample of their drugs—tiny samples of residue—to designated locations in the city and have them analyzed.
A mass spectrometer rapidly detects and identifies dozens of fentanyl analogs if they’re in the sample. Of course, the user thought they purchased heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. The machine was originally designed as a counter-terrorism tool to detect traces of biological or chemical weapons. Its new purpose continues to fight against terror.
Furthermore, drug addicts that know the drugs they’re taking could contain carfentanil or some other form of fentanyl are heeding the warning to “use with a friend.” They realize they’re flirting with death and are trying to take precautions—
Is this waging war?
Boston isn’t the only city reaching out hoping to save lives analyzing an addict’s stash. Chicago, Illinois is testing out the machine too. They call it a “drug checking service” but it’s unknown if the program will be continued over the long-term at this point. The machine is expensive—it costs $65,000.
Still, many of us believe that you can’t put a price on human life. So, should the expense issue even become part of the discussion? City governments trying to maintain a budget have to weigh that one out.
In the meantime, cocaine and methamphetamine deaths are overtaking opioid overdose deaths in number, but the numbers aren’t really adding up. Carfentanil, fentanyl, or one of the 2,000 or more yet unnamed fentanyl analogs are being found contained in the mix.
Users that are unaware of them don’t cut back their dose to account for the potency. Then, again, they could be cutting back but with no idea of the amount and strength of the drug, there’s still a high risk of overdose.
Either way, people are dying.
If they’re listening
Drug addicts understand the grave consequence attached to using drugs mixed with carfentanil and other synthetic opioids. Their potency blows the drugs formerly considered extremely lethal out of the water completely.
Emergency responders use extreme caution to avoid exposure for fear they might be endangering their own well being.
Users are heeding the warnings regarding the serious risk they take when using drugs that might contain carfentanil or other synthetic opioids. They take precautions and don’t use drugs alone. They keep Narcan on hand if possible and some have their drugs analyzed.
The bottom line is they don’t want to die.
We must continue educating the public about the dangers of drug use. Knowledge is the key to making informed decisions.
We need to encourage those with a substance abuse problem to seek help. Rehabilitation equips addicts with the tools they need to live a sober life.
As long as they’re listening, we know there’s hope.