What Is Carfentanil?

Carfentanil is a potent fentanyl derivative and is one of the strongest opioids in existence. It is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Even touching or inhaling small amounts of carfentanil can be dangerous to humans, with a dose as low as 2 mg able to sedate an elephant and kill 50 people.

In 2016, carfentanil was found to be connected to overdose deaths. Illicit forms of the drug are available as pills, blotter paper, tablets, and aerosol. It can also be turned into a white powdery substance that looks like cocaine.

Carfentanil Mixed With Other Drugs

Due to inexpensive manufacturing and high potency, carfentanil has been added as a filler to other illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

Inexpensive fillers that can boost the potency of sought-after drugs have created a market for fentanyl and its derivatives in the illegal drug trade. This has resulted in unanticipated misuse and overdose situations connected to substances like carfentanil.

Dangers Of Carfentanil Use

The dangers of carfentanil primarily affect the person using it but can also affect household members and first responders. Carfentanil can be deadly even accidentally when inhaled or touched. Therefore, residue or fine powder in the air can harm others around the person who used the drug.

Symptoms Of Carfentanil Exposure

Carfentanil exposure can give similar effects as other opioids and can be felt within seconds. After exposure, a person can exhibit the symptoms of opioid overdose:

  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Sleepiness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Clammy skin
  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure

Carfentanil is not safe for human consumption; if you suspect exposure, call 911 immediately.

Can You Overdose On Carfentanil?

Carfentanil is extremely easy to overdose on after exposure. Even consuming an extremely small amount of it can lead to an overdose. Although the term overdose might imply taking too much, with carfentanil, breathing any of the aerosolized powder can lead to serious side effects and death. The human body cannot safely tolerate any amount.

If a batch of heroin or cocaine is laced with carfentanil, it is impossible to tell by sight alone. Therefore, a “regular” amount of heroin that a person is used to could contain traces of the drug and lead to an overdose.

Can You Use Naloxone For Carfentanil Overdose?

Naloxone can reverse the effects of a carfentanil overdose, though multiple doses may be required. Additionally, it has a longer duration of action than other opioids and, therefore, may require more naloxone over a longer period.

If naloxone is used, call 911 with the first dose to ensure enough doses are available and to provide advanced respiratory support. Continue to give naloxone every 2–3 minutes until the person is breathing on their own for at least 15 minutes or until EMS arrives. Use gloves and a bag-valve-mask or pocket mask respirator to limit the possibility of touching carfentanil if giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a person experiencing an overdose.

Who Is Most At Risk Of Abuse?

A person who abuses opioids or stimulants such as cocaine could be at risk for carfentanil use without knowing it. Testing a sample with a fentanyl test strip is an option for those who have access to test strips.

Fentanyl test strips can indicate the presence of fentanyl but cannot tell which type of fentanyl or fentanyl derivative, such as carfentanil, may be present in a sample. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to identify when carfentanil is mixed as a filler and sold as heroin or cocaine.

Anyone who uses cocaine or heroin should be prepared for accidental exposure to a fentanyl type of compound.

Getting Help For Addiction

Carfentanil is a dangerous substance that can cause fatal overdose. Treatment programs can help you overcome an addiction to opioids, cocaine, and any other substance with which it may be mixed. If you’d like to explore your treatment options, contact a treatment provider today to learn more.