A substance used to tranquilize elephants that is 100 times more potent than the drug that killed Prince is hitting the streets, adding to a growing problem linked to the exotic and toxic sedative, reported the Washington Post.
In recent weeks, police departments across the country announced carfentanil-related fatalities, including Maryland, Illinois, Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Law enforcement officials fear the growing lethal overdoses tied to the synthetic opioid marks a new normal in the nation’s heroin epidemic.
“We have never seen death like we do now,” said Tom Synan, head of Hamilton County Heroin Coalition in Ohio, which was among the first spots to discover a string of carfentanil deaths during a week in which the county’s overdoses more than doubled.
“It shows how callous these drug dealers are,” Synan said. “It has no human use whatsoever and they’re putting it out on the street and wreaking havoc.”
Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati and nearly 50 law enforcement agencies, experienced an average of 50 to 70 reported overdoses a week in early 2016 and four or five deaths, Synan said. One month after law enforcement learned carfentanil had hit the county, overdoses skyrocketed with about 175 to 200 calls in a single week in August. Four of those users died.
The difficult-to-detect substance is so powerful that an amount equivalent to a few grains of salt can be deadly. It requires more aggressive treatment to reverse a typical opiate overdose. First responders are getting burned out answering back-to-back overdose calls rising because of carfentanil and other synthetic opioids and worry about falling ill after exposure while answering calls.
And the drug is so new that some medical examiners don’t have the tools to detect it in autopsies.
Often people don’t know drugs they’ve purchased have been laced with an elephant sedative that is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, leaving their families devastated.
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