Carfentanil was invented to be a large animal sedative. It is sometimes added to heroin or used as a substitute for it. It has already killed scores of people. Developed over 40 years ago by chemists working for Janssen Pharmaceutica, carfentanil was originally meant for use as an anesthetic/ sedative for large animals only, like elephants, giraffes and moose.
- It is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.
Deaths seem to come in “clusters”, as groups of users tend to partake together. For example, 5 people were reportedly killed in Minnesota. These five overdoses happened in the Minneapolis area.
- Ken Solek, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA in Minnesota said; “the drug is so strong that it can’t be diluted enough for safe human consumption, and many people don’t realize they are taking it.”
This drug is an analogue of the synthetic analgesic opioid fentanyl, carfentanil (sometimes spelled carfentanyl) is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl. In fact, carfentil and may be the most powerful opioid known to exist.
What is Carfentanil?
Similar to fentanyl, heroin and other opioids, this drug acts on certain opioid receptors in the brain to induce potent sedative and analgesic effects. These opioid mu receptors are spread throughout the spinal cord and central nervous system tissues. Abusing it inhibits release of stimulatory neurotransmitters such as dopamine, GABA, noradrenaline and acetylcholine. It also decreases neuronal excitability by closing chemical channels between neurons and inducing hyperpolarization. This is a condition in which neurons cannot receive external or internal stimuli.
Carfentanil – Considered a “Weapon of Mass Destruction”
The lethalness of this drug is comparable to nerve gases used as chemical weapons. In fact, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs Andrew Weber (2009-2014) asserted carfentanil was a “weapon” and reiterated the threat of terrorist groups like ISIL or al-Qaeda ordering carfentanil online to be used to kill civilians and knock out troops in enclosed areas.
After being crushed into a powdery substance, it is added to heroin to enhance a heroin “high” by drug dealers. Lacing heroin with it also increases the amount of heroin dealers can sell to unsuspecting addicts. Most people purchasing heroin on the street do not know if the heroin they inject themselves with contains it.
If an addict were to inject it alone, they would probably die with minutes from heart failure and respiratory distress. Even inhaling or absorbing a tiny amount of it (the size of a grain of salt) through your skin would demand immediate medical attention to avoid severe shock and possibly death.
Chinese Carfentanil Connection
Overdoses and deaths surfaced for the first time in the U.S. during July of 2016. Drug agents traced the drug back to 12 Chinese vendors who were selling this drug online for $3000 per kilogram (roughly two and a half pounds). These Chinese companies were also offering it online in Canada, France, the U.K and Australia. Although China has since banned the export of it to the U.S. and other countries, Mexican drug cartels still provide gangs and drug dealers with it via boat, airplane and illegal postal shipments.
Effects of Carfentanil
Similar to the physical and cognitive effects of fentanyl, this drug can cause;
- extreme itching
- life-threatening respiratory depression
- decreased heart rate
Police Carrying Extra Narcan
Naloxone (Narcan) can help reverse the effects of carfentanil but not as well as it works for people overdosing on heroin. This drug is so dangerous that law enforcement in Canada and the U.S. are carrying extra vials of Narcon in case they come in contact with the drug.