Recent reports from the state of Ohio have linked a combination of heroin and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer, to multiple overdose deaths.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, carfentanil was the cause of three deaths in the Cincinnati area between the dates of August 19-25. The area experienced 174 overdoses in this period of time; more deaths attributed to carfentanil could arise as toxicology reports continue.
Carfentanil is a super-potent opioid that is used on large animals, most commonly to sedate elephants. The drug is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, another lethal relative of carfentanil. The New York Times reported that the drug “can kill in doses smaller than a snowflake.”
Introduced in the 1970s, carfentanil was developed for use solely on large animals. The National Institutes of Health describe the drug as “an analog of the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl,” and one of the most potent opioids known to man.
As the state of Ohio reels from recent overdose-related deaths, officials have declared a public health emergency. This is particularly alarming, as experts have discovered carfentanil’s resistance to naloxone, a medication used to treat narcotic overdoses.
Because of the carfentanil’s potency, naloxone has been less effective in its normal dosage. It is difficult to metabolize, and produces a longer-lasting high. In Hamilton County in Cincinnati, Health Commissioner Tim Ingram stated that overdoses have required two or three doses of naxolone in order to combat the effects.
Carfentanil has made its appearance known through its fatalness. Though in its liquid form, the drug is odorless and colorless. On the surface, it may appear no different than heroin or fentanyl. Its comparative potency is harrowing.
Heroin and carfentanil are each deadly on their own. When mixed together, the results are horrifying, and are quickly revealing themselves to the general public of the United States, with more major cities emerging with carfentanil-related reports on a daily basis.
As the opioid epidemic grows, carfentanil has taken center stage. It is deadly even in the smallest amount, and its presence is an increasing threat, both to the US and beyond.
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