carfentanil with syringe

Carfentanil Overdose Deaths Overwhelm Ohio First Responders and Crime Labs

There are many substances that have proven to be prone to abuse. Oftentimes the ones that most readily come to mind are alcohol and marijuana; while these substances are two of the most frequently abused of all mind-altering substances, there are many others — like carfentanil and many others that are far more dangerous and addictive — that have become problematic at the individual, familial, community, and national levels.

In the 1990s, the debut of OxyContin marked the start of what quickly became a painkiller epidemic. Due to the incentives, Purdue Pharma offered to physicians who prescribed OxyContin, the drug was prescribed liberally, resulting in many patients being over-medicated and lots of OxyContin being sold on the street. It wasn’t long before rates of painkiller addiction skyrocketed, leading to some policy and formula changes in the 2010s that dramatically reduced the amount of OxyContin that was available for abuse. With so many painkiller addicts unable to get painkillers, many individuals turned to heroin as an alternative since it was readily available, less expensive than painkillers, and far more powerful.

Over the past several years, it’s been heroin addiction that has become the epidemic. People in communities large and small are falling prey to the terrible power of heroin, causing them to behave in ways they never would otherwise. Meanwhile, other substances have emerged as threats to public welfare. Some of these substances are ones that were never meant for human consumption but have been found to cause some type of intoxication or high upon being ingested. Such is the case for carfentanil, which has recently been the cause of a sudden string of overdose deaths in Ohio.

A Drug That’s 10,000 Times More Powerful Than Morphine

In the simplest of terms, it’s an opioid drug, which puts it into the same family of substances as heroin and opiate painkillers. However, it’s much more powerful than virtually every other opioid drug.

Opioids are so named because they’re derived from the opium obtained from the opium poppy. Substances that are similar to opium in their chemical structure and their effects are called opiates — morphine, codeine, thebaine — while substances that have similar effects regardless of chemical structure are called opioids — heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl. Morphine is one of the first substances derived from opium to be used medicinally, but numerous drugs have followed in its footsteps. Fentanyl is a more recent synthetic opioid that is estimated to have 80 times the potency of morphine, making fentanyl one of the strongest opioid drugs available. However, carfentanil is a synthetic analogue to fentanyl and is estimated to be an astounding 10,000 times more potent than morphine; this makes it the strongest opioid substance in commercial use.

Heroin Overdose Deaths Attributed to Heroin Laced With Elephant Tranquilizer

Recently, there have been a string of deaths reported throughout the state of Ohio — with Cincinnati being one of the most-affected areas of the state — and sources say that a super-powered opioid is to blame. But where is it coming from? And how are Ohioans getting their hands on this super-potent, extremely dangerous drug?

man shooting up drugs

Ever since it was first synthesized in the 1970s, carfentanil has predominantly been used as a tranquilizer for large animals and as an anesthetic during surgical procedures on large animals. Due to its strength, it’s considered unwise to use this drug on humans, and even when it would be warranted, the availability of other, safer opioid drugs means that there’s almost no situation in which a human would need to be given such a powerful opioid analgesic. By comparison, larger animals such as elephants can take the drug without it causing their death; in fact, those who are familiar with the substance are likely to know it as the elephant tranquilizer drug called Wildnil.

Over the past several weeks, there has been a mass epidemic of overdoses occurring throughout four states: Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana; however, the epicenter of the epidemic appears to be the Cincinnati area of Ohio where law enforcement and emergency responders have responded to several dozen overdoses in the span of just a few hours. In a period of weeks, there have been hundreds of overdoses, and it seems like law enforcement just can’t keep up.

With there being very little of this unusual opioid drug available in the U.S., authorities theorize that it’s making its way into and through Ohio is actually coming from China. The idea is that individuals are purchasing it online, having it shipped to drug traffickers in Mexico, and finally having it smuggled across the border and into the U.S.

The majority of these overdoses involve individuals using heroin that happens to contain small amounts of the powerful opioid drug. It seems it’s being used similarly to how fentanyl was used to increase the potency of heroin. Individuals who sell heroin often dilute the drug with other substances to increase the amount of heroin they have to sell; however, this makes the drug weaker, so they’ll find a substance like fentanyl or the elephant tranquilizer that can be added to the heroin to compensate for its dilution. Unfortunately, they’re inadvertently making the heroin lethal since just a couple snowflake-sized granules of Wildnil can be fatal.

Not only are emergency first responders and law enforcement overwhelmed, but the mass overdose deaths are overwhelming crime labs throughout the region, too. It’s only by conducting toxicology tests of the victims of overdose that authorities can definitively find out whether an individual died from a heroin overdose or from heroin laced with elephant tranquilizer, and authorities are finding themselves with lots and lots of victims to test.

Call Ohio Addiction Recovery Centers for a Free Consultation Today

Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that claims lives every single day. However, nobody has to continue living in the throes of addiction. If you or someone you love would like to discuss the treatment options that are available, call Ohio Addiction Recovery Centers at 800-481-8457. Whether it’s day or night, we’re always available to help you or your loved one beat this deadly disease.

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