You may have heard about fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to morphine. What you may not have heard about, however, is the ultra-potent concentrated version of it: carfentanil.
What We Know About Carfentanil
Developed in the mid-1970s as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants and hippos, carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. A lethal dose in humans is only 20 micrograms, which is the size of a grain of sand or the weight of about ten snowflakes. And the scary thing is, it doesn’t necessarily need to be intentionally ingested.
“If a person just gets it on their hand and accidentally touches their eye, touches their mouth, that could prove to be fatal for them,” said Dr. Neil Capretto.
What’s more, thousands of people are unknowingly buying heroin that’s laced with the deadly drug. This has become a common practice among dealers, mainly because synthetic opioids like carfentanil are cheap to purchase, making them an ideal ingredient to add in baggies of heroin.
Just this year, officials have already seen a noticeable uptick in heroin overdoses, which they attribute to the growing prevalence of carfentanil in the States. And because it’s so powerful, officials believe that even multiple injections of the anti-overdose drug naloxone may not even be enough to prevent a fatal overdose.
How is This Drug Reaching the U.S.?
Carfentanil “normally comes in – we’re told – by the U.S. mail system, usually from China,” Ohio Senator Rob Portman said. “Some laboratory in China producing it, and then shipping it to the United States by mail.”
Elicit sellers are able to do so, he said, because they’ve found loopholes in the U.S. mail system – namely how to send something without having to provide tracking information.
Portman has since introduced the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention act, a new law that would require the U.S. Postal Service to track senders the same way private shippers do. And thankfully, the Chinese government has also gotten involved. Earlier this month, China began banning the manufacture and sale of four variations of fentanyl – carfentanil included.
Though it’s too early to determine whether these actions will make a significant impact on what has become a growing problem in our country, officials remain optimistic. But in the meantime, one thing’s for sure: Keep your distance from this deadly drug. It has a license to kill.
Additional Reading: The F-Word – 3 Fast Fentanyl Facts to Remember
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