Carfentanil: The Latest Deadly Opiate

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, fentanyl took 705 lives in the state in 2015 – just shy of heroin’s death toll of 733 for Florida the same year. Fentanyl death rates increased a whopping 77.6 percent in the state between 2014 and 2015. This marked the start of what has today become a national crisis.

Carfentanil is an analog of analgesic fentanyl, meaning it has a similar structure. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, 4,000 times more potent than heroin, and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. As such, it poses a high risk of overdose death. In 2016, authorities blamed carfentanil for the spike in heroin overdose cases. As these potent drugs grip the nation, get the stats on the situation around the country and closer to home in Florida.

What Is Carfentanil?

Carfentanil, also called carfentanyl and Wildnil, is the most recent illicit drug trend. It is a synthetic opioid in the same category as fentanyl, heroin, and oxycodone. As a commercial drug, carfentanil is used to tranquilize large animals. Its potency is meant to sedate something that is hundreds to thousands of pounds heavier than humans, so it is easy to imagine its effects on the average person.

In appearance, carfentanil resembles granules of table salt. Officials say just 20 micrograms (less than one grain of salt) can be fatal. Carfentanil is making its way into America via drug manufacturers in China, but Mexican drug cartels remain the main source of imported illegal substances to the U.S. Law enforcement agencies have intensified their efforts in fighting the drug, making the first federal indictment (against two dealers in Cincinnati) involving carfentanil in the country last year.

Carfentanil is so powerful that it has changed the way emergency responders have to treat calls regarding overdose incidents. They must use gloves, facemasks, and even goggles to avoid accidently ingesting even the smallest amounts of carfentanil. Granules of the drug entering the mouth, nose, or eyes can cause overdose, coma, and/or death in just minutes. Evidence of this became clear in a terrible tragedy in Moscow in 2002. In an effort to overpower terrorists who held hostages in a theater, Russian Special Forces sprayed a chemical aerosol (suspected to contain carfentanil) into the building. The aerosol killed more than 100 hostages.

The Effects Of Carfentanil

Statistics show that as of December 2016, 44 people die per day from opioid abuse. The Drug Enforcement Agency has called the fentanyl epidemic a “crisis of historic proportions.” While still dealing with the tragic effects of fentanyl, officials are struggling to keep up with the latest overdose and death statistics of carfentanil. Carfentanil can lead to instant overdose death by respiratory arrest. The effects of carfentanil include:

  • Blue or purple lips or fingernailsThe Opioid Crisis and Carfentanil
  • Choking sounds
  • Coma
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fainting spells
  • Hypoventilation
  • Limp body
  • Low blood pressure and slowed heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale face
  • Seizures

Like fentanyl, carfentanil works by attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors. These receptors control pain and pleasure. The mental effects of carfentanil, if the user manages to stay conscious after ingestion, include a state of euphoria and intense relaxation. Typically carfentanil users lose consciousness, drop into a coma, and/or die due to the extreme potency of the drug.

Most people don’t mean to purchase or ingest carfentanil. Drug manufacturers mix the drug with heroin and press it into pills that mimic prescription drugs. Drug overdose rates in Ohio, one of the hardest states hit with the fentanyl crisis, rose from four or five per day to around 50 according to Police Chief Tom Synan. In Florida, the recent death toll is shockingly similar.

Carfentanil In Florida

The most recent public news of carfentanil in Florida happened in Palm Beach County, with officials attributing 87 deaths to the drug in just a three-month period. The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner described the number of overdose deaths from the drug as “overwhelming,” and strongly believes it will outpace the death toll from heroin.

A similar event occurred in Miami-Dade County at the end of last year. According to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office, at least 107 deaths in 2016 were related to carfentanil. In December 2016, authorities raided the home of a man in West Perrine and found several packets of the drug. In the past, police have called Miami-Dade County “ground zero” for heroin overdose deaths, with the city of Miami accounting for about 43% of all recorded deaths in the county. Since the introduction of carfentanil to the area, police have responded to overdose calls more than five times more often per day.

Florida Mixed-Drug Deaths

In 2015, fentanyl killed 103 people in West Palm Beach alone. Of these deaths, 94 were from fentanyl mixed with other drugs. In the same year, heroin killed 165 people in West Palm Beach, and 779 people statewide. It’s clear the vast majority of deaths relating to heroin occur when users mix it with other substances. In West Palm, 149 of the deaths were heroin in combination with other drugs – potentially carfentanil. Of the 779 statewide heroin deaths, 752 were mixed with other drugs.

As carfentanil becomes the drug of choice to mix with other potent substances, the DEA and Florida state authorities fear for the lives of citizens. Users may combine carfentanil with heroin or other drugs for a more powerful high, only to end up in the morgue. Authorities can only hope to spread awareness about the danger of carfentanil, and encourage users to stay away from heroin until they can gain better control of the carfentanil outbreak.

Help Is Available For Opioid Addiction

If someone you love is addicted to carfentanil, fentanyl, heroin, or another opiate, help is available at The Treatment Center. Our Palm Beaches location offers a comprehensive list of treatment plans and programs specifically for opioid addictions. Our licensed medical practitioners are learning all they can about the new drug carfentanil, its effects on the mind and body, and the best methods for treatment. We can help you or a loved one overcome your substance use disorder. Contact us today to schedule your one-on-one consultation.

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