Since last summer, Carfentanil, which is an opiate 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, has been killing addicts and confounding first responders across the country.
Not for human use:
The drug has been used to kill and immobilize humans mostly in assassination attempts and by Russian Special Forces in 2002, however, it was never intended to be consumed by humans.
Section chief for the Diversion Control Division, of the DEA’s Drug and Chemical Evaluation section, Terry Boos, said that Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid. It’s of a drug class similar to fentanyl and other fentanyl analogs. He says that the only legitimate use of the drug is as a tranquilizer for very large animals, like elephants or hippos.
There’s no medical literature on its effects on humans, the knowledge is being gained the hard way, by first responders.
Russ Baer, DEA spokesman, said that during July 2016, Akron paramedics registered more than 230 drug overdoses, 14 of those being fatal. The fatalities were linked to carfentanil. After that there have been outbreaks throughout Ohio, particularly in Cincinnati.
The DEA has found the drug in several states like Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, New Jersey and Illinois.
Baer says the agency is tracking the presence and the propagation of the drug.
Authorities had no idea what they were dealing with when the drug first appeared in Ohio. Sen. Rob Portman said: “In Cincinnati it took several days to get a sample of to be able to check it. And sure enough, many of the overdoses that had occurred in a spike were related to this carfentanil.”
Toxicology labs across the country were brought up to speed by the DEA as it’s important for first responders to recognize a carfentanil overdose. Which might, sometimes, require multiple doses of the anti-overdose drug naloxone.
The tiniest amount of carfentanil can kill that’s why first responders encountering the drug need to take extra precautions, including agents screening packages from overseas.
The drug comes in by the U.S. mail system, usually from China, according to Portman. Laboratories in China produce, then ship it to the United States by mail.
Illegal sellers in China have an arrangement with the U.S. mail system where they send packages through without that information.
Steps to prevent the drug:
The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention, or STOP act, is a bill that Portman has co-sponsored.
A senior adviser to Americans for Screening All Packages (ASAP), Juliette Kayyem, says that the group is backing the STOP act. The new law will require the U.S. Postal Service to track senders the same way private shippers do.
Last year, the STOP act stalled in the Senate, but Sen. Portman reintroduced the legislation last month, and is hopeful it can pass with bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, at the request of the U.S, the Chinese government has taken action. Last month China announced the banning of the export of carfentanil along with three other opioids.
A similar ban in 2015 helped get the drug known as “flakka” or alpha-PVP, off the streets here, according to Baer.