Carfentanil: What You Need To Know Right Now About This Dangerous Opioid

First and foremost, it’s here. And like all of our other very deadly opioids, like heroin, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and the like, it may be here to stay. And if it is not in your response area yet, it will be.

Carfentanil is synthetic opioid, a distant cousin to fentanyl. Fentanyl is something many agencies carry for pain management, usually given under strict medical direction protocols. Fentanyl has many clinical uses, and has proven efficacy when it comes to managing a patient’s pain, and is also given in some areas as an induction agent for managing tough airways. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that it is 50 to 200 times more potent than morphine.

Carfentanil, however, has no proven therapeutic human efficacy. It is, in fact, an elephant tranquilizer powerful enough to sedate and bring fatal results to a 15,000-pound elephant and other large animals. The Washington Post reported in early August that this deadly drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

Think about that for a moment. A fraction of that dose – just 10 milligrams, which is smaller than a thumbtack – is enough to send about 500 people to their graves. The Post also reported that the Buffalo Field Campaign, a group protecting the bison in Yellowstone National Park, warned that carfentanil is so deadly, that people cannot consume the meat of animals that have been sedated with it.

Do we even carry enough naloxone (Narcan) to combat that? Surely not. We’ve all had opioid overdoses that took multiple Narcan doses to treat. According to the DEA? It would take half a dozen Narcan boluses to treat a carfentanil overdose, something beyond our protocols. But here’s what you need to know right now:

  • carfentanilAccording to the DEA, it’s being cut into the heroin supply everywhere from Canada to the East Coast. And it’s creeping out towards the Midwest. Ohio, in fact, is being described as Ground Zero for carfentanil importing.
  • It is also being sold illegally uncut on the street, made with professionally bought pill presses.
  • Carfentanil, in liquid form, is odorless and colorless; it’s impossible to tell what users are shooting.
  • Do NOT handle any substance retrieved from a patient with bare hands; even skin contact with carfentanil can be enough to overdose. We use personal protective equipment (PPE) as a cardinal rule, but remember to stay vigilant.

America’s love affair with opioids is nothing new. At the end of April, CNBC reported that 80% of the world’s opioid production was consumed in the United States. Considering that we make up only about 5% of the earth’s population, that’s a staggering statistic. Over 300 million pain prescriptions were written in 2015, a $24 billion big pharmaceutical market.

And while The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released even stricter prescribing guidelines for opioids, most of those abusing them are getting them through legally prescribed RXs from doctors blatantly ignoring the CDC’s three-day supply limit.

Just south of my response area, in Manatee County, FL, officials seized a sizeable quantity of carfentanil. Most of it is being imported through China and Mexico. That fact was sobering for those of us in the Tampa Bay area:  that means it’s here.

Signs of a carfentanil overdose are just what you would expect from any opioid overdose, only super-sized. Itching, nausea, vomiting, seizures, severe respiratory depression; imminent death. The only thing you can do is follow your protocols, manage what you find, get an airway and hope for the best.

Another word of caution:  Law enforcement is briefing their officers not to try and test any substance suspected to be carfentanil in the field, and not to handle it without PPE. Please watch your LEOs; remind them if they’re not sure and educate them if they have not heard yet. This carfentanil influx is relatively new, and, according to the DEA, on its way to becoming an epidemic.

Watch each other’s backs. Be vigilant. And stay safe out there!

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Leah Dallaire

Leah Dallaire

Leah G. Dallaire is a highly accomplished freelance writer, editor and consultant with 28 years of experience. She has also concurrently been a paramedic for 20 years; the last 17 she spent serving the citizens of Pinellas County, Florida, which has a call volume of about 209,000 runs per year. She holds an M.A. and a B.A. in Writing & Literature from Union University. She has also just finished her first novel.
Leah Dallaire

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