Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is similar to fentanyl but 1,000 times more powerful. It is also 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Veterinarians use carfentanil to sedate elephants and other large mammals. Even though the FDA has not licensed the use of the powerful tranquilizer by humans, people have started to combine it with other drugs. The result of this is potentially fatal effects.
What Is Carfentanil?
The Control Substance Act has carfentanil listed as a Schedule II substance. It is therefore recognized as dangerous with the potential for abuse. When sold illicitly, the drug is usually combined with other substances before selling. The drug is available in several ways, including a pill, powder and spray.
Since a person can take in carfentanil by inhaling or through skin absorption, the first responders who come into contact with an overdose victim are also at risk. If a person comes into contact with the drug and is not cautious, they can experience adverse side effects.
A group of chemists synthesized carfentanil for the first time in 1974. One of the most severe risks associated with the medication is that it can appear in various ways, including as a component of another drug. Carfentanil and fentanyl are commonly mixed with heroin. This combination amplifies the potency of each dose, making heroin abuse much more dangerous.
Between 2016 and 2017, the number of deaths concerning carfentanil use increased from 29 to 125 in Alberta, Canada. In August of 2017, Arizona saw its first carfentanil overdose outbreak. According to a Time magazine report, between August and September of 2016, 300 people died as a result of carfentanil or fentanyl.
However, the number of deaths is difficult to monitor because medical examiners, physicians and nurses are unfamiliar with the drug and have trouble distinguishing it from heroin and cocaine when mixed.
To put the potency into perspective, 2 milligrams of carfentanil, equal to about 35 grains of salt, is enough to sedate an elephant. In 2016, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration said that only a few carfentanil granules were enough to kill a person.
Nonetheless, carfentanil is not going away. Drug traffickers have found that combining the drug and fentanyl with heroin and cocaine is more profitable. This is because of the combined strength and capacity to disperse the product beyond the initial amount by blending in other substances.
People who want to misuse cocaine and heroin are often unaware of the existence of carfentanil in the drug. This can result in an overdose or severe addiction.
In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration released a federal alert to the public and law enforcement regarding the human abuse of carfentanil. The DEA described the drug as a powerful animal opioid sedative and one of the most potent opioids available to humans.
Many people have asked what carfentanil is used for, considering its alarming potency. Carfentanil is used to treat large animals such as elephants, but it is not licensed for human use due to the drug’s toxicity and potential for addiction.
Carfentanil addiction is similar to that of other opioids. As a person’s body responds to the presence of carfentanil in the system, misuse can lead to addiction. When people develop drug tolerance, they tend to crave it and want larger doses to produce the same results.
Unfortunately, combining carfentanil and fentanyl with other substances such as heroin may contribute to people being addicted to these opiates without even realizing it. Addiction is riskier because combining a drug of this potency without being aware of its existence can easily result in an overdose.
This concern has recently arisen in light of the drug’s increasing abuse in the United States and its potentially fatal side effects.
Carfentanil vs. Fentanyl
Carfentanil is a chemical cousin of fentanyl, an opioid used to relieve pain and offer anesthesia. Many people equate carfentanil and fentanyl because they are both potent synthetic opioids that outperform morphine and heroin.
Medics refer to carfentanil as a fentanyl analog, which means it differs slightly from the opioid but has many of the same side effects, including:
Carfentanil on its own can cause side effects even when touched or smelled. According to the Washington Post, law enforcement officers have a warning not to touch carfentanil powder with their bare hands. The following are some of the more severe carfentanil side effects:
- Low blood pressure
- Trouble breathing
- Heart failure
- Constricted pupils
Knowing how dangerous carfentanil is may help people avoid misusing it. Still, the drug’s ability to blend in with other substances makes it difficult to identify without knowing what it looks like.
What Does Carfentanil Look Like?
Knowing the form of carfentanil is one of the most critical aspects of identifying it. The product is a white powder that looks like cocaine or heroin. Since the drugs have a similar appearance, mixing them to make a more active drug is simpler.
You may be able to identify the drug better by knowing the carfentanil street names, which usually include the drug combined with other substances to produce new toxins. The common street names are:
- Tango and Cash
- China White
- China Girl
- Serial Killer
- Drop Dead
- Gray Death
Gray Death is the most popular street name. It gets its name from the fact that it resembles concrete mix. This combination comprises heroin, carfentanil, fentanyl and other opioids. People administer it through injection, smoking or oral ingestion.
Someone may be misusing carfentanil if they are casually using any of these names, trying to purchase carfentanil online, or involved in taking cocaine, fentanyl or heroin. If this is the case, they risk overdosing and having an addiction to opioids and other medications.
Is Carfentanil Addictive?
Carfentanil, like most opioids, is highly addictive. Scientists developed it as an elephant tranquilizer, so it has no medicinal applications for humans. Even in small doses, the drug may have significant side effects. Therefore, people who attempt using it recreationally run the risk of having severe side effects.
Drowsiness, nausea and sedation are all possible side effects of carfentanil. Many of the side effects are close to those of heroin, but the effect is brief, lasting for only an hour or two. Overdose signs of carfentanil include trouble breathing, constricted pupils and heart failure. Reviving someone who has overdosed on carfentanil can involve several doses of naloxone, a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Opioid and opiate misuse is a significant issue in the United States. Every year, hundreds of people die due to drug abuse, and opioids are one of the most common forms of drugs that can lead to an overdose. Heroin addiction has long been an issue in the United States, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil have made heroin even more dangerous and potent. People who misuse it are more likely to suffer severe injury or death due to the combination.
The most common form of carfentanil addiction is accidental. People who abuse cocaine or heroin think they are taking 100% pure cocaine or heroin, but carfentanil, appearing similar to these drugs, can be mixed in without anyone knowing. Even a tiny amount of carfentanil may be fatal or, at the very least, cause an experience close to that of other synthetic opioids. When people take carfentanil but do not sustain serious injuries, their bodies can become accustomed to the drug’s presence and become dependent on it for euphoria and relaxation.
Avoiding drugs like heroin and cocaine is the best way to avoid a carfentanil addiction by mistake. Carfentanil may be present in any white powder-like material, so detecting the presence of carfentanil can be extremely difficult.
Side Effects of Carfentanil Abuse
Death is the most common and severe side effect of carfentanil abuse. Experts in the field of drugs emphasize that the product is highly potent. An overdose is possible if a person takes even a tiny amount of carfentanil. If a person does not overdose, some side effects are close to those of other synthetic opioids or morphine. Calmness, tranquility, nausea and drowsiness are possible side effects.
If you’re concerned that a friend or family member is abusing carfentanil, keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Runny nose
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle aches
- Excessive sweating
There is a chance of carfentanil poisoning if you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, cocaine or another synthetic opioid. Seek support to begin the recovery process to prevent this risk. Granite Recovery Centers has a network of professionals who have the skills and expertise to assist individuals dealing with drug use problems and co-occurring mental illnesses.
Additionally, Granite Recovery Centers staff members teach people about the risks of carfentanil and how it can be combined with other substances, making drug abuse almost as deadly as taking carfentanil deliberately. People can better understand the dangers of substance abuse by using this knowledge to start their rehabilitation and live healthier lives.
After using carfentanil, a person will most likely go through withdrawal from the drug. Carfentanil withdrawal symptoms are similar to opioid withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased pulse
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Watering eyes
- Depressed mood
- Excessive sweating
The length of opioid withdrawal and detox symptoms is determined by several factors, including the type of opioid, how an individual consumed it, the dosage duration and the substance’s half-life. The physical and mental health of the person who is abusing may also affect the timeline.
Opioid withdrawal symptoms usually appear anywhere from six hours to four days after the last dose. Carfentanil withdrawal symptoms will start as soon as six hours after the last dose because it is a fast-acting drug.
Even after initial detox, some withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks or months. The following are some of the long-term withdrawal symptoms:
Carfentanil Medications and Detox
Detoxification is usually the first step of carfentanil addiction treatment. Detoxification is a daunting task, but it is a vital step on the road to recovery. During detoxification, the body rids itself of all opiate-related contaminants and substances.
Because of the severity of withdrawal symptoms, doctors often advise that anyone detoxing from any drug seek care at a treatment center. Medical detox can take place in a variety of different environments, including:
- Physician’s office
- Inpatient detox
- Outpatient clinic
Doctors commonly use one or more of the following procedures to help individuals detox from carfentanil:
- Medically supervised, 24-hour observation: This is the best method of detoxification. Receiving care in the presence of medical personnel means that the patient is closely monitored for any potentially serious problems that could arise during detox.
- Methadone maintenance: Methadone is a medication used to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms and relieve cravings in people addicted to opioids.
- Clonidine and buprenorphine use: These drugs are usually used to alleviate cravings and treat some of the effects of opioid withdrawal.
- Oral or intravenous fluids: Fluids are usually used to treat electrolyte imbalances and dehydration.
At Granite Treatment Centers, we know that each person’s addiction is different, so we’ll have a talk with each patient about their history with substance abuse. We’ll also ask about the length of time they have been abusing the substance and the most common side effects they have experienced.
Based on this information and the individual’s unique needs, our specialists will create an individualized treatment plan. Treatment for a co-occurring condition, such as depression or anxiety, may be included during recovery.
Granite Recovery Center’s mission is to help people dealing with addiction break the cycle, and everyone on staff is dedicated to assisting people in achieving and maintaining recovery. Reach out today. We’ll help you break your addiction.