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Carfentanil – the “Elephant Sedative”

Carfentanil – the “Elephant Sedative”

It’s an incredibly dangerous drug. We’ re concerned that even a drop could get in an eye, so we wear eye protection. We wear long sleeves. We wear gloves.” ~ Dr. Kimberly Cook, Director of Animal Health and Conservation at the Akron Zoo The hazards associated with abusing opioids are worsening – now, an ultra-potent animal sedative is being mixed with or even passed off as pure heroin – Carfentanil, a drug typically reserved for larger zoo creatures like elephants. Carfentanil has no legitimate medicinal value among human beings, because it is 100X more powerful than fentanyl, and 10,000X stronger than morphine. Even veterinarians with a license to use Carfentanil cover their hands, arms and faces when giving it to animals, all while keeping an antidote close by.

Is Carfentanil REALLY That Dangerous?

The drug recently arrived in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, slowly moving northwest after first showing up in Florida. On a typical day, hospitals in Cincinnati will have to handle approximately four overdoses. Since the recent appearance of Carfentanil, there has been an unprecedented explosion of overdoses – 78 in two days, 174 within six days, and nearly 300 in less than two weeks. It total, Cincinnati emergency personnel have already responded to almost 1600 overdose situations so far this year. Compounding matters is the fact that a normal dose of life-saving Narcan – the emergency anti-overdose drug used by first responders – is not of sufficient dosage counteract Carfentanil. A person overdosing on Carfentanil needs five times the normal amount of Narcan to survive. Area emergency rooms just do not have the resources to handle a crisis of this nature and this magnitude effectively. The city is working directly with Ohio Governor John Kasich in an attempt to have more Narcan shipped by the state. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says, “This is an epidemic in our community that must be addressed.” Carfentanil is actually considered to be so dangerous that police and emergency medical personnel have been directed to wear protective clothing–including respirators–when answering overdose calls, something normally reserved for incidents involving hazardous industrial materials. First responders are also not allowed to test any drug samples while they are still on-scene out in the field, for fear of spreading this deadly drug.

If Carfentanil is So Deadly, Why Are People Using It?

Part of the reason Carfentanil has a growing presence is the fact that it is a synthetic opioid–meaning it can be manufactured in a lab faster than the opium poppies needed to make heroin can be grown. Some experts say there is a “never-ending” source of synthetic designer opioids coming from illicit laboratories in China. Dr. Adam Bisaga, a research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and also a Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, says, “This might be the new epidemic as heroin is pushed out of the market.“Need for cheap, easily distributable opioids, need for replacing the licensed pain medicines that are being less-prescribed in a form of impostor or forged pills containing other opioids…I suspect that many painkillers people take and believe they are real medicines are the fake ones.”