Carfentanil, a potentially fatal synthetic opioid drug used to sedate animals as huge as elephants, is making its way into the United States. It has recently been found laced into heroin.

Fentanyl And Carfentanil

Carfentanil is an analog of fentanyl, which is used for chronic pain management in the treatment of terminally ill cancer patients and for analgesia and anesthesia. Fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than morphine, is a schedule II prescription drug. The opioid has been blamed for the death of the pop star Prince and is also responsible for at least 700 overdose deaths in the United States from 2013 to 2015.

While fentanyl overdose still remains a threat to society, carfentanil, which is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, is being sold in the streets of America. The drug is mixed with heroin or in pills that appear like prescription drugs. People who use these products are not aware of the presence of carfentanil and the fatal consequences of the opioid.

Effects Of Lethal Combinations Of Carfentanil

The drug, which is not intended for use in humans, is potentially lethal when used in combination with heroin. When mixed with drugs, carfentanil may not be identified by the user as the opioid has no odor or color and is highly soluble in water.

Some people tend to use heroin laced with carfentanil to get high instantly because they associate it with fentanyl but without a clear understanding of the drug's potency. Carfentanil in no case can be substituted for fentanyl, as the former is lethal to humans when ingested, inhaled or upon external contact even in very small amounts.

A drop of carfentanil when absorbed by the skin of a person following accidental contact could result in fatality. The drug is capable of immobilizing an African elephant that weighs between 5,000 and 14,000 pounds in no time. To be more precise, the drug can sedate an African elephant that is about 26 to 72 times heavier than an average man.

"Even after a single splash to the face, eyes, and mouth, and despite immediate decontamination, the patient rapidly became symptomatic," reports a study published The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Uses Of Carfentanil

This being the case, the synthetic drug is still manufactured but for use in wildlife management programs, veterinary and animal practices and research purposes. The drug is allowed to be handled by qualified professionals with due care and precautions in appropriate settings.

Professionals who use carfentanil citrate are strictly advised to carry naltrexone hydrochloride, the reversal agent that helps in countering the drug upon exposure. Animals that receive the drug are also carefully monitored for side effects.

Photo: Christian Schnettelker | Flickr

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