What is Carfentanil?
Fox 6 News reported Saturday June 10th that the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner announced they have responded to 12 probable drug overdoses in the past 72 hours. They don’t say whether or not these were fatalities, but since the medical examiner is involved I suspect they are. The announcement comes after Milwaukee County said they are preparing for a new high of overdoses in 2017. The number could exceed 400 people, according to the medical examiner’s office.
What is killing these people? Among other things, a drug, carfentanil. What is carfentanil? It is a synthetic opioid used to sedate animals as large as elephants. It is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl (which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin). It is responsible for overdose clusters all across the country. Why in the world would people take something that would almost certainly kill them? Well, the answer is they don’t realize they are taking it. Often it resembles powdered cocaine or heroin and is sometimes mixed with those drugs to strengthen their impact. Users are not told and frequently die as a result.
Naloxone, or Narcan, can reverse carfentanil if given immediately, just as it does for other opioids, but it may take several doses.
Where does it come from? It is marketed under the trade name Wildnil as a general anesthetic or tranquilizer for large animals. It is NOT approved or safe for use in humans. It’s produced clandestinely in Mexico and China. It was first discovered last summer in Akron Ohio. Within a month that city saw 236 overdoses due to carfentanil and 14 of those people died. It has spread to many more states since then.
The drug is so deadly that its appearance prompted the DEA to issue a warning to police and the public in September last year. Just handling the drug can be deadly, a small bit of powder, absorbed through the skin of a non-user (like police or fire fighters), can cause an overdose and death within a very short period of time.