ClickCease Mixing Heroin and Carfentanil Dangers - Granite Recovery Centers

Mixing Heroin and Carfentanil Dangers

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning to the public and law enforcement officials in 2016. The agency wanted to ensure that everyone in the country knew about a new drug by the name of “carfentanil” and it is extraordinarily potency.

Carfentanil is the reason that several overdoses occurred in New Hampshire, Maryland, and many other states. It is a substance that looks like heroin or cocaine because of its powdery and white appearance, but it is much more than that. Carfentanil is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

The reason that this drug needs to be so powerful is because veterinarians use it to tranquilize elephants. Veterinarians use 2 mcg of carfentanil to sedate elephants that weigh 2,000 pounds. As they do this, they must take extreme precautions to avoid coming in contact with the drug. This means that they wear gloves and face masks before they sedate any large animal with carfentanil. If they do not, any exposure whatsoever could lead to their deaths.

Carfentanil has not been approved for use on human beings, but drug dealers mix it with heroin anyway. They do this on purpose so that they can make the heroin even stronger.

Carfentanil is so potent that if someone touches or inhales it, the victim can experience heart failure, dizziness, shallow breathing, and clammy skin. First responders are at risk when they are responding to calls for help for carfentanil overdoses.

How Do People Use Heroin?

People can snort, smoke or inject heroin. Many people mix it with water so that they can put it into a syringe and inject it into a vein. When they combine cocaine and heroin, it is known as a “speedball.”

The user may mix heroin and cocaine before injecting it. Users can also inject one substance and then inject the other substance directly after the first. One reason that people choose to do this is that just ingesting heroin causes them to feel very drowsy, and they fall asleep during their high. If they create a speedball with cocaine, the cocaine gives them a burst of energy that keeps them awake to enjoy the full duration of their high.

It works the other way as well. Cocaine causes a person to feel paranoid, anxious, and agitated. The addition of heroin into the mix calms the person down.

What Is Carfentanil?

Carfentanil is a drug that the U.S. government listed as a controlled substance. It is classified under Schedule II because it is highly addictive and has the potential to be abused.

Combining Carfentanil With Heroin

Carfentanil is a substance that is very cheap and not easily detected because it doesn’t have a color or smell. It is also very easy to mix it with other substances, so drug dealers mix it with heroin. Then, it becomes a deadly product because of the potency of the carfentanil.

If users purchase heroin that has been mixed with carfentanil, they may be unaware that this occurred. The carfentanil isn’t easy to detect, so users may be ingesting a substance that could cause their deaths.

When a person overdoses on heroin, first responders administer naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an overdose of heroin. Since it is an opioid antagonist, it binds to opioid receptors and blocks the effect that other opioids have on the body. A heroin overdose causes a person’s breathing to slow down, but directly after receiving naloxone, the person immediately begins to breathe normally again.

Only one or two doses will be needed. If carfentanil was present in the heroin, the user would need more than six doses to reverse the overdose, and that still may not be enough. Therefore, it is difficult to save someone if the person is overdosing on carfentanil and heroin.

Carfentanil Exposure

A person can be exposed to carfentanil in the following two ways:

  • Through the Eyes: Carfentanil can enter the body through the eyes, but this is the least likely way that exposure can occur.
  • Through the Skin: This is another unlikely way that carfentanil can enter the body, but if it does get onto someone’s skin, you must not use hand sanitizers that contain alcohol. These do not wash the drug off of the skin and may even increase the absorption of the drug.

Symptoms of a Carfentanil Overdose

The symptoms of a carfentanil overdose include pinpoint pupils or pupils that are unusually small, shallow breathing, and falling unconscious.

While people are experiencing the symptoms listed above, they may still have traces of carfentanil left in their mouths or in their eyes. The DEA advises that someone wash this residue out of the person’s mouth and eyes as much as is possible.

The Next Step

The next step is to get the person medical attention. When the medical professionals arrive, they will have the protective coverings required to keep from being exposed to the substance. If you are present, you should remain as far away as possible from the person experiencing the overdose to avoid exposure.

Administering Naloxone

Some states allow individuals to administer naloxone when a person appears to be overdosing on carfentanil. If you have naloxone, you must administer it every two to three minutes.

There are three different ways to administer naloxone. The nasal spray is a product that anyone can easily use. All that you need to do is spray the NARCAN Nasal Spray into the person’s nostril while the person is lying down. There is also an auto-injectable version of naloxone. This was also designed for use by friends or family members of a person overdosing on carfentanil. The EVZIO gives audible instructions for its use that tell someone how to inject the drug into the patient’s outer thigh.

The third type is the injectable version that requires medical training. Doctors, nurses, and first responders use this option.

It is important to note that administering naloxone does not guarantee that the person experiencing the overdose will survive.

Time to Seek Help

Heroin is already a dangerous drug, but the fact that any dose of heroin could also contain carfentanil makes it even more dangerous for your loved one. The best way to make sure that your loved one is not exposed to carfentanil is to help this person overcome the addiction to heroin. We can do this at the Granite Recovery Centers.

Your loved one must enter into a drug treatment center because the nature of the addiction makes it difficult for people to stop using the drug on their own. When people are addicted to heroin, they will experience several withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking the drug, and these include the following:

  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • A runny nose
  • Insomnia
  • Tearing eyes
  • Aches in the muscles
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

If they manage to refrain from obtaining the drug after the early withdrawal symptoms begin, the following withdrawal symptoms may make them change their minds:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Goosebumps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping

These symptoms will not lead to your loved one’s death, but they will make everyone feel very uncomfortable.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we offer our residents medication-assisted treatment or MAT during the drug detox program. One medication that we may administer to your loved one that helps people tolerate the withdrawal symptoms is “methadone.” Methadone prevents your loved one from feeling the familiar feelings that heroin caused, and with this medication, your loved one will not miss taking the drug. Our specialists administer this drug carefully so that everyone feels as they normally do. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

After this portion of the treatment is over, your loved one will begin counseling.

If your loved one is resistant to entering a treatment center, you must do everything you can to make this person see the wisdom in doing so. If your loved one doesn’t complete drug treatment after detox, there is a risk of returning to heroin use again. Most of the people who die of an opioid overdose recently went through the withdrawal process.

After the withdrawal process is complete, your loved one will not be able to ingest as much of the drug. People can finish their drug treatments, but there is the possibility of a relapse. If these people return to their heroin use, they can cause an accidental overdose. This is because they may take as much of the drug as they were used to taking before they went into treatment. An overdose can occur even if they take less than the amount they used to take. At this point, their bodies aren’t accustomed to ingesting any of the drug.

Experts state that those with an opioid addiction must also be evaluated for a mental health disorder.

Treatment at Granite Recovery Centers

Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are mental health conditions that many people diagnosed with substance use disorders have. This could be the case for your loved one.

Medical professionals discovered that substance use disorders and mental health disorders are often linked, so they need to be treated together. At Granite Recovery Centers, we can offer your loved one a dual diagnosis treatment program. Our professionals will diagnose the mental health condition if it exists and develop a treatment plan for it.

We can also treat substance use disorders. If we didn’t address the mental health disorder, your loved one wouldn’t obtain the desired results from our treatment program. That’s because the mental health disorder would interact with the substance use disorder and encourage your loved one to continue seeking heroin.

Help for the Family

In our treatment program, we do more than just treat the person addicted to substances. We also help those around the person with the addiction relate to each other in an effective manner. If you are a family member, we will provide counseling for your entire family. Family members are often caught up in the addiction of their loved ones, so you might believe that it is your responsibility to force your loved one to stop using heroin.

If you are in the middle of a co-dependent relationship with your loved one, we can teach you what you need to do after they leave the treatment program. Our Family Recovery Workshops give you a chance to ask any questions you may have. We will also offer you advice on the best way to proceed when your loved one is at home.

If your loved one is ready to leave heroin behind, contact us today, and we will help you get the process started.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.