US officials warn drug 100 times more potent than fentanyl – which is used to knock out elephants – is driving a new spike in overdoses but they are struggling to cut off the supply chain
- Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than heroin
- 2mg of fentanyl is lethal, whereas 0.2mg of carfentanil could kill an adult man
Carfentanil, fentanyl’s even more lethal cousin, is now widespread in the US drug supply and driving an uptick in overdoses, US officials warn.
The drug is not new, but until now it had been on the fringes of the opioid epidemic.
In recent months, however, it has been implicated in a soaring number of overdoses, usually in people who unwittingly consumed traces of it in street-bought prescription pills like Oxycontin and Xanax.
While fentanyl – 100 times stronger than heroin – can kill an adult male with 2 milligrams, anything more than 0.2mg is lethal when it comes to carfentanil.
Its potency has made it a handy tool for zookeepers of rhinos and elephants: fentanyl can tranquilize a horse but its effects are measly on bigger animals.
Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than heroin
But authorities are in a losing battle of whack-a-mole trying to cut off the supply chain.
The drug can be bought online for $7.50 a gram.
Many ingest it via other drugs bought from street vendors, without knowing it contained carfentanil.
This year, the Drug Enforcement Agency insists they are making some progress on a local level, at least.
In February, a Cincinnati woman was charged in the first federal case related to carfentanil trafficking, getting a four-year jail sentence.
Last month, San Diego police arrested 14 people allegedly tied to a gang, ‘the Crooked Angels’, that was cutting carfentanil into opioids, which were allegedly responsible for three overdoses and one death.
It was a big moment for the DEA.
‘It’s always sitting there, lurking there on the outskirts. You don’t know when it’s going to show,’ San Diego DEA Special Agent, Colin Ruane, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
‘That’s the scary thing about all of this. You think you’re taking heroin or oxycodone or Xanax and you don’t know what’s in it.’