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Carfentanil Abuse and Exposure in Washington State

The Dangers of Carfentanil and its Impact in Washington State

Carfentanil is an extremely dangerous drug that has been very visible in the news in WA State over the last few years.

This drug is an opioid, but it is one that is extremely powerful and potent. It is 100 times stronger than Fentanyl, and 10,000 time stronger than heroin.

Fentanyl is lethal at doses at about 2-3 milligrams, which is about the size of 5-7 grains of salt. But Carfentanil is deadly with as little as .02 milligrams, which is about 1-2 grains of salt.

It may be difficult to believe that such a tiny amount of a drug can kill a human being, but it is true. To make matters worse, a lot of people are being exposed to Carfentanil without their knowledge. We want to do our part to make people aware of the dangers of this drug. It is right here in the State of Washington.

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Carfentanil Facts: The Drug 100 Times Stronger Than Fentanyl

Carfentanil is actually used by animal trainers/specialists to tranquilize animals such as elephants in zoos. Most large animal veterinarians don’t even want to use carfentanil on horses because of its potency.

It only takes 2mg of carfentanil to tranquilize an elephant that weighs up to ten tons. Even veterinarians use gloves and face masks when handling the substance. A small splash in the face, eyes, or mouth can be lethal. Carfentanil is not meant to be consumed by humans at all. However, this doesn’t stop drug dealers from lacing carfentanil into heroin and other substances.

Now, because this drug is so potent, most drug users don’t purposefully abuse carfentanil on its own. No one wants to take carfentanil alone to get high, because you will most likely die. Instead, it is being cut into other drugs by dealers.

According to the DEA, this drug is being grossly misused on the streets. Carfentanil is being sold to look like Oxycontin or Xanax pills by dealers, or laced into heroin. The user doesn’t even know that they are taking it. Dealers do this because it is a cheap way to attain a huge high for people because it only takes a trace amount to be effective, which makes it cheaper for dealers to sell. But what you don’t know could kill you.

This drug is relatively new on the streets, and health care specialists are unsure if naloxone will even be able to reverse overdoses of carfentanil. Carfentanil poses a threat not just to drug users, but also to police officers and first responders who might simply touch the drug.

This white, powdery substance is a killer. We need to educate ourselves so we can stop this crisis before it begins.

Keep reading to find out:

  • The carfentanil threat in Washington state
  • The chemical makeup of carfentanil
  • The history of carfentanil
  • How carfentanil interacts with other drugs
  • Carfentanil overdose information
  • Withdrawal timeline for carfentanil
  • Carfentanil rehabilitation treatment
Heroin Addiction

Carfentanil Statistics and Threat in Washington State

Carfentanil is a new opioid that police force and first responders are just starting to see on the streets. In fact, one of the first seizures of carfentanil was recorded by police in the state of New York in 2018. Special Agent James J. Hunt stated:

“This investigation is about more than just arrests and seizures, it is a public health warning. Carfentanil is death, and drug dealers are packaging it for sale on the streets of New York City. Law enforcement is battling the opioid suppliers on the front lines and this drug has the potential to double or triple overdose rates if we don’t get it off the streets quickly and warn users of its extreme danger.”

The DEA and police force across the country are taking this very seriously because of the threat it poses to our society.

Although carfentanil is still very rare, unfortunately, there has already been a case of this drug appearing in Washington State.

In January of 2019, the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab tested a syringe found at an overdose scene in northern Seattle, and found that it contained carfentanil along with heroin. This is the first and one of the only known cases involving carfentanil specifically in Washington State.

Luckily, there have been no fatal overdoses linked to carfentanil use in King County so far.

The DEA continues to stress the importance of taking preventative measures to fight this opioid that could kill so many. Since this drug is still very rare, it is extremely important to be aware of this threat and prevent it from creeping into the streets of your town in Washington.

So, what is carfentanil made of and what makes it so extremely strong and dangerous?

Carfentanil is usually laced into pills, but it can come in other forms as well. These include powder, blotter paper, tablets, and spray - they can be absorbed through the skin or accidental inhalation of airborne powder.

Molecular Formula: C24H30N2O3

Carfentanil is actually an analog of fentanyl, which means its chemical makeup is structurally similar to that of fentanyl, but it may just be an atom or so off in its chemical composition. Carfentanil is similar (but more potent) to the opioid analgesic fentanyl. It is used as a tranquilizer for large animals, and it is completely unintended for human use. It’s in the same drug class as other opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, and prescription drugs like Oxycodone.

As for the pharmacology of Carfentanil, DrugBank states that it acts primarily on the mu (some kappa and delta) opioid receptors as an agonist. It will induce similar effects of analgesia as other opioids, but because of its potency, it will also induce strong side effects such as sedation. This is why its only approved use is as a tranquilizer for large animals.

Carfentanil primarily affects the central nervous system. Its primary actions of therapeutic value are analgesia and sedation. Carfentanil also depresses the respiratory centers, depresses the cough reflex, and constricts the pupils.

Even though carfentanil is relatively new on the scene, it is already gaining popularity on the streets. Drug dealers refer to it as:

  • Apache
  • China White
  • China Girl
  • Goodfella
  • Tango and Cash
  • TNT
  • Drop dead
  • Serial killer
  • Gray death

According to the World Health Organization, carfentanil is currently being used for its original purpose (a large animal tranquilizer) in 19 different countries: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Although it was created for this purpose, we now know that it is on the rise as another killer opioid street drug.

Carfentanil was first created by a team of chemists at Janssen Pharmaceutica, including Paul Janssen. It was created as a way to tranquilize large animals.

Carfentanil is  first introduced to veterinary medicine.

Some of the first reports of carfentanil abuse and seizure appear in Europe. Then, in the following year, carfentanil was linked to a few drug-related deaths in Latvia.

Carfentanil abuse makes its way over to the United States. Kentucky State Police reported 9 overdose deaths. Time magazine does a report on carfentanil and reports at least 8 deaths in Cincinnati connected to the drug. DEA issues an official public warning against the drug.

The DEA Special Testing and Research Laboratory’s Emerging Trends Program reports that in 2017, there were 269 identifications of “fentanyl, fentanyl-related substances, and other synthetic opioids.” Fentanyl accounted for 69% of the identifications (187 out of 269) and carfentanil accounted for 3.3% of the identifications (9 out of 269).

Carfentanil is reported in Kings County Washington

While carfentanil was first created about 50 years ago, the rate in which we have seen it spread on the streets is rapid and alarming. It took only 7 years from the first reports of illegal carfentanil use in a different country for it to reach the doorsteps of our home in Washington State.

According to the Associated Press, carfentanil is mostly being produced and exported from China, just like fentanyl. After investigating, they reported that in 2016 they found:

“12 Chinese businesses that said they would export the chemical — a synthetic opioid known as carfentanil — to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and Australia for as little as $2,750 a kilogram (2.2 pounds), no questions asked.

This was a chilling and dangerous discovery.

The reason why it is mostly produced in China is because it was not a controlled substance there until 2017. So for years before that, it was being manufactured and sold legally online. And a lot of it ended up right here in the United States.

In 2016, police force in the US and Canada reported finding carfentanil in boxes shipped from China that were labeled as “printer accessories.”

According to the DEA, most carfentanil makes its way to the United States either directly from China or by way of Mexico.

Mixing Carfentanil With Other Substances

Carfentanil is usually mixed with other substances because it is cheap, has no smell, has no color and it dissolves in water. Dealers usually mix it into heroin, Oxycontin, or Xanax. Since carfentanil is so potent, the user will experience a high that is stronger than those substances that don’t contain carfentanil. And if the user likes the high, they will keep coming back to that dealer.

The problem with that plan is that since carfentanil is so powerful, taking it in any form, even when mixed with other substances, can be deadly.

Carfentanil is extremely hard to detect, so it is almost impossible to know you are taking it. Even medical examiners have a hard time identifying carfentanil’s presence in other substances.

There have long been reports of drug dealers mixing more potent drugs with other, less powerful ones. In fact, Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported about Fentanyl being used to lace many other drugs. Some of the ones that have been affected include MDMA, cocaine, and even marijuana.

But the question is, why would drug dealers want to kill off their clientele? The answer is simple – it is because when people die from drug overdoses, the popularity of the product increases. The word spreads quickly on the street, and suddenly, the dealers have more customers than ever.

Heroin is one of the more common drugs that may be mixed with substances like Fentanyl. But we now know that dealers are using Carfentanil in their deadly concoctions as well. Most people who use a drug that is laced with the elephant tranquilizer will die.

As with fentanyl, carfentanil is also a depressant. That is how it can tranquilize large animals. So, when you mix two powerful depressants together, it can cause drowsiness, extreme sedation, and respiratory depression. This can cause you to fall into a coma or die suddenly.

For a normal heroin overdose, two shots of naloxone are recommended to help reverse the overdose effects. But for heroin laced with carfentanil, it will take at least six shots of naloxone to reverse the effects. Even then, it is not guaranteed to work. In certain cases, people who overdosed on heroin mixed with carfentanil have needed IV bags of naloxone to remain stable. This drug is simply too powerful for any current methods of treating overdoses, and the death rate from overdose is highly likely.

Carfentanil has also been found in OxyContin pills along with heroin. In 2018, a town in Northeast Ohio found what looked like OxyContin pills, but actually contained carfentanil instead of oxycodone. Unsuspecting users think they are taking OxyContin, but they are actually ingesting something much stronger.

Again, like with fentanyl, even the smallest amount of carfentanil mixed with oxycodone could result in overdose and potentially death. Buying pills on the streets is not safe, especially when these deadly drugs are out at large.

Since Carfentanil is used as a tranquilizer for large animals, you could imagine the effects it would have on a human body. A carfentanil high is reported to feel extremely tranquil, usually to the point of drowsiness and nausea.

The high of carfentanil is similar to that of heroin in the short-term, but because it is so potent, it acts quickly and wears off quickly.

The probability of getting high on carfentanil without overdosing is also very low, again because it is such a potent drug. It takes such a trace amount of carfentanil to be lethal that is very likely users will be unable to experience a high without also overdosing.

The most common side effect of carfentanil is death, but if the user does survive, the side effects will be similar to that of other synthetic opioids. Some of those side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Muscle Aches
  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive sweating
  • Low blood pressure

Carfentanil in the News in Washington State

Statistics tell us that two people in Washington State overdose on opioid drugs every single day.

We also know that in King County, there have been at least three teens who died from recent Fentanyl overdoses. The fact that Carfentanil was found in Seattle is unsettling at best.

According to an article on the KOMO News website, a syringe was discovered to be tainted with Carfentanil at a homeless camp in Seattle. That area is where five people overdosed on opioids on the same day. But it has not been confirmed that there was Carfentanil in their systems. All of them survived.

The camp was shut down by the City of Seattle, and everyone there was offered appropriate housing. Taking those steps is good, but it does not seem to be enough to curb the Carfentanil problem in Washington State.

This drug is an immediate threat to any first responder who comes into contact with it. Personal protection equipment is encouraged, but breathing it in, or touching even the smallest amount is enough to lead to death.

Since the rise of the opioid crisis in Washington State, Naloxone (Narcan) has been highly encouraged for anyone who uses these drugs recreationally. This is especially important for people today because they really do not know what is in the drugs they purchase on the street.

But the typical dose of Naloxone may not work as well for someone who has taken Carfentanil. This is due to the drug’s potency. It must be administered quickly, and subsequent doses may need to be given prior to the arrival of paramedics. When they arrive, they may administer more until the patient can be seen at the hospital.

Withdrawal Symptoms and Detox Timeline for Carfentanil

Carfentanil is not meant for human use whatsoever, and it has only recently turned up on the streets in other drugs, so health care experts have not studied the specific withdrawal symptoms or detox experience for this drug.

But because carfentanil is a synthetic opioid and it is closely related to fentanyl, its withdrawal symptoms and detox are probably similar to that of fentanyl or other synthetic opioids.

If a person survives carfentanil use, their body will be addicted to the substance. It is so strong that even one use will do permanent damage to the body.

Withdrawal symptoms could include:

  • Chills
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

Again, due to the lack of knowledge or research on carfentanil effects in humans, we are basing the detox timeline on other synthetic opioids.

With fentanyl, the detox process is estimated to take about 10 days. For carfentanil, the detox time estimate is still unknown, but it could be even longer due to the fact that it is so much stronger than fentanyl.

The most important thing to remember is that you need to seek medical attention and go through a medically supervised detox treatment if you have ingested carfentanil. Due to the lack of knowledge on the drug and its extremely high potency, it is extremely important that you have access to 24/7 medical attention throughout the detox process.

Here is a general detox timeline for fentanyl. Remember, since carfentanil is 100 times stronger, and because it is a rapid-acting drug, this timeline may be sped up for carfentanil. And this timeline will only be true for people who take a non-lethal dose, which is extremely hard to do with carfentanil.

8 - 30 hours after use: Mild symptoms typically begin

36 - 70 hours after use: The worst symptoms set in. After this peak, symptoms begin to decrease.

5- 7 days after use: Most withdrawal symptoms will have worn off (could be longer with carfentanil).

Weeks to Months after use: Due to the extreme potency of this drug, some symptoms may be permanent. Some physical symptoms (like sensitivity to pain) and psychological symptoms (like cravings, depression, insomnia, and anxiety) might be with you for life.

Because there are some symptoms that will remain after detox, it is important to continue on the road to recovery by enrolling in a rehab treatment program.

Carfentanil Rehab Options

If you accidently take carfentanil and survive, you are one of the lucky few. You will have a hard recovery road ahead of you, but if you take the right steps, you can come out on top.

After completing a medically supervised detox, your body will be rid of the invasive substance. But your mind will not be.

This is why following up with drug rehab treatment after detox is so important. A rehab facility will provide you with the tools you need to mentally beat your cravings and addiction. You will be provided with care from medical professionals to help maintain your physical health, as well as care from therapists who will help you maintain your mental health. You will learn how to live a sober life, and you will be surrounded by a community of people on the same journey as you.

Finding a Quality Drug Rehab in Washington State

The SAMHSA treatment locator tool tells us that there are hundreds of drug rehab facilities in Washington State. They include both inpatient and outpatient options. Someone who is addicted to opioid drugs should also consider going through detox. This is a very important step because opioid withdrawal can be extremely difficult to manage on one’s own.

But not all drug treatment facilities are the same. People need to carefully consider their options before choosing. They should opt for programs that offer the type of care they need and that are accredited by The Joint Commission.

At Northpoint Seattle, we offer one of the best outpatient addiction rehab programs in the State of Washington. We have two locations; one in Seattle and one in Bellevue. That makes it more convenient for people to get the help they need to recover.

We know that people need a more personalized approach when it comes to addiction recovery. That is why we have three levels of care – traditional outpatient, partial hospitalization, and our intensive outpatient treatment program. This allows us to be more specific when we treat our patients so we can ensure they get the help they need.

Get the Facts About Carfentanil in Washington State and How to Get Treatment for an Opioid Addiction

At Northpoint Seattle, it breaks our hearts to hear of so many people getting exposed to Carfentanil. This drug is so dangerous, and it has already taken so many lives. But reducing your exposure to it is only possible if you get help for your drug addiction.

We can provide you with the support you need to overcome your addiction to opioids. We are confident that we can help you reach your recovery goals.

Do you have questions about Carfentanil and its impact in WA State? Do you need to know more about your treatment options? Please contact us today.