Carfentanil Addiction/Abuse

Carfentanil is one of the newest drugs to take hold on the United States. In recent years, the sedative and tranquilizing drug — similar to fentanyl — accounted for numerous overdose-related deaths in the country because of its high potency both in power and severe effects.

Carfentanil was first synthesized in 1974 by a team of chemists. It has since been classified as a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. One of the major risks associated with the drug is that it can come in many forms, including as an ingredient paired with another drug. Carfentanil and fentanyl have been found mixed with heroin. This mixture increases the potency of each dosage and makes heroin misuse much more deadly.

In Alberta, Canada, the number of deaths related to carfentanil use rose from 29 to 125 between 2016 and 2017. Arizona saw its first carfentanil overdose case in August of 2017. According to a report by TIME magazine between August and September, of 2016, there were 300 deaths related to carfentanil or fentanyl. However, the number of deaths are difficult to track because medical examiners, doctors and nurses are not familiar with the drug and have difficulty identifying it when mixed in with heroin and cocaine. To understand the potency, 2 milligrams of carfentanil — equal in weight to around 35 grains of salt — is potent enough to sedate an elephant. A Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) spokesperson said in 2016 that just a few granules of carfentanil is enough to kill someone.

Carfentanil is not going away, either. Drug dealers have learned that it is more profitable to mix the drug and fentanyl in with heroin and cocaine because of the combined power and ability to spread out the substance beyond the original mount by blending in other drugs. Since the people who intend to misuse heroin and cocaine are often not aware of carfentanil’s presence, their lack of awareness can cause an overdose or lead to severe addiction.

The DEA issued a nationwide warning in 2016 to the public and law enforcement about human misuse of carfentanil. The warning described the drug as a potent animal opioid sedative and one of the strongest opioids available to people.

The drug has a potency 10,000 times that of morphine, making it extremely dangerous and deadly to those who take the drug in large doses. Considering its potency, many individuals have asked what carfentanil is even used for. While the drug is used for large animals, including elephants, carfentanil use in humans remains unapproved due to the drug’s potency and addictive potential.

Addiction to carfentanil is similar to that of other opioids. Misuse can create a dependence on the drug as a person’s body adjusts to carfentanil’s presence in the system. When a tolerance builds, people begin to crave the drug and desire larger doses to achieve the same desired effects. Unfortunately, the mixing of carfentanil and fentanyl into other drugs like heroin can cause people to become dependent on these opiates without knowing it. That type of addiction can be more dangerous because mixing a drug with this potency and not having knowledge of its presence could easily lead to an overdose.

cocaine in lines
Many people have asked, “What is Carfentanil?” This question has surfaced recently in response to the drug’s rising misuse in the U.S. and its deadly side effects.

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is sort of a chemical cousin to fentanyl, which is an opioid that is used as pain medication and for anesthesia. Many people like to compare carfentanil and fentanyl because they are both highly potent synthetic opioids that surpass the power of morphine and heroin. Carfentanil is medically called a fentanyl analog, meaning it is a slight deviation from the drug but offers many of the same side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Itching

On its own, carfentanil can cause side effects even by touch or smell. The Washington Post reported that law enforcement officials have been warned against touching carfentanil powder with their bare skin. Some of the more severe carfentanil side effects include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Constricted pupils
  • Trouble breathing
  • Heart failure
  • Death

Knowing how lethal carfentanil is can help deter people from misusing the drug, but the drug’s ability to mix in with others makes it difficult to detect without knowing what it looks like.

One of the most important ways to identify carfentanil is knowing the form it takes. The drug is a white powder-like substance similar to cocaine or heroin. The similar appearance makes it easier to mix the substances together and create a more-potent drug.

Knowing how to identify the drug involves knowing the carfentanil street names, which often include the substance mixed in with other drugs to create new toxins. The most common street name is “gray death.” This mixture includes heroin, carfentanil, fentanyl and other opioids. The mixture is taken by injection, smoking or oral ingestion but it gets its name by looking similar to concrete mix.

cocaine drug interaction
Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid similar to fentanyl or oxycodone and it, like most other drugs, is certainly addictive. There is no medical use for carfentanil, which is originally intended as an elephant tranquilizer. Taking even a small amount of carfentanil can cause severe side effects. However, even a small dosage can be deadly, so many people who experiment with the substance run the risk of severe side effects.

The carfentanil high can include drowsiness, nausea or tranquility. Many of the side effects are similar to heroin, but the experience can quickly begin and last for only an hour or two. Some of the carfentanil overdose symptoms include difficulty breathing, constricted pupils and heart failure. Unfortunately, it can require multiple doses of naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, to revive someone who has overdosed on carfentanil.

Addiction to opioids and opiates is a severe problem in the United States. Millions of people die each year due to drug addiction, and opioids are one of the primary types of substances that can cause an overdose. Addiction to heroin is a long-standing problem in the country, and the addition of synthetic opioids like carfentanil and fentanyl make the substance much more toxic and potent. Additionally, the mixture causes a higher chance of severe injury or death for people who misuse the drug.

The Recovery Village can help people who suffer from an opioid addiction. If you or a family member struggles with a substance use disorder involving carfentanil, heroin or a similar drug, call today to speak with a representative on how a drug rehabilitation program can help. Continuing to misuse opioids has increased risks due to the mixing-in of synthetic drugs like carfentanil and fentanyl. It is difficult to detect the presence of these drugs in the substance, and sometimes people ingest these highly-potent toxins without knowing it. The best way to avoid the risk of overdose is to begin the recovery process as soon as possible. The Recovery Village has a team of experts and the resources designed to educate clients on the dangers of these drugs and help them remove their opioid dependence while coping with any co-occurring disorders.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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