8 Dangers of Carfentanil: the Most Dangerous Opioid Yet?

June 16, 2017
Carfentanil - Dr. Axe

As the opioid epidemic rages on, now law enforcement officials, and addicts, have a new substance to fear. Carfentanil made its way onto the drug scene, and into the awareness of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) around summer 2016 in the U.S. Since that time, deaths due to overdoses from this synthetic opioid have continued to climb.

It’s early yet and law officials are still getting familiar with this new threat, but since last August, about 300 people in at least four states have overdosed on heroin laced with the drug. So far carfentanil has shown up in Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida. Meanwhile, fentanyl-related deaths have continued to increase; in Ohio alone deaths from this drug rose 526 percent, from 84 to 526, from 2013 to 2014. (1)

The high rates of addiction to opioids such as Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, fentaynyl and tramadol has in turn led to increases in addiction to street opiates, such as heroin, leading to more and more deaths of despair.

Unfortunately, drug dealers are taking advantage of the low cost of carfentanil and blending it into heroin. Some users may not realize that the heroin they’ve purchased, for example, has been cut with carfentanil, which can lead to an even more dangerous encounter that could very likely get them killed. Why? Well, a very small amount of carfentanil will kill a human. (2)


What Is Carfentanil?

Carfentanil is a powerful synthetic opioid used legally as a large-animal tranquilizer, marketed as Wildnil. It’s 100 times stronger than fentanyl, its relative, and 10,000 time stronger than morphine.

Very recently, carfentanil has made its way into the illicit drug trade. As a result, cases of overdose in humans of this literal “elephant tranquilizer” are becoming common. The drug is dangerous not only to users, but also to law enforcement officials. Carfentanil, and other synthetic opioids, are often shipped from black market vendors in China through the U.S. mail to customers who have placed orders online. Packages are sent through the U.S. mail because unlike private carriers, such as UPS or Fed Ex, tracking is not required. (3)


8 Dangers of Carfentanil

The biggest risk of carfentanil use is overdose and death. An amount the size of a grain of salt, or 20 micrograms, can kill a human being on contact, either by touch or inhalation. In fact, the DEA now recommends that police officers where masks and gloves when handling this drug given the high risk of death. (4, 5)

Carfentanil is certainly deadly on its own, but now drug dealers are incorporating it into other drugs such as fentanyl mixed with heroin, to create a product with a greater high. Unfortunately, buyers don’t always know what they’re getting and these blended drugs have led to a rash of overdoses and deaths. And, although law enforcement officials usually have Narcan (naloxone) on hand, an antidote to heroin overdose, it can take six or more doses to counteract carfentanil, compared to the usual one to doses needed to counteract heroin.

However, due to carfentanil’s high potency and the large number of Narcan doses needed to reverse an overdose, overdoses from this drug more often than not end in death. (6) As a matter of fact, carfentanil is so potent that there is legitimate concern about its potential use as a weapon of mass destruction. (7)

Carfentanil can easily cause overdose and death. Also, because dealers are mixing it into heroin and other drugs, a user may not even realize they are taking it. Call 911 or emergency medical help immediately if you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose. Dangers of carfentanil, and signs of overdose, include: (8)

1. Pinpoint or “pinned” pupils
2. Shallow or absent breathing
3. Dizziness, lethargy, sedation
4. Loss of consciousness
5. Nausea, vomiting
6. Heart failure, weak or absent pulse
7. Cold, clammy skin
8. Death


Carfentanil Withdrawal

As with detoxing from other opiate drugs, withdrawing from carfentanil use will cause similar symptoms, including: (9)

  • Cravings
  • Shakiness
  • Chills
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hypersomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Delusions
  • Seizures
  • Changes in appetite

Seek medical help or contact a drug rehabilitation center for guidance and support while detoxing and withdrawing from carfentanil or other drugs. The doctor may administer medications such as methadone and buprenorphine to help with long-term maintenance of withdrawal.

It is possible to stop an addiction, but it can be challenging. (10) Finding support, taking care of yourself and having patience with the process — taking it one day at a time — will make the withdrawal process less difficult and more successful. Besides support from family and friends, joining a support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous, or getting individual counseling can help provide you with the emotional support you need during this difficult time. (11) You can also look into the controversial plant substance kratom that is used to battle opioid addiction.


Natural Pain Relievers

Drug users turn to stronger substances like heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil because they are seeking a greater high than what they may have experienced using other opiates. Sadly, the opioid epidemic gripping the U.S. in many cases has resulted from initial addiction to prescription opioid painkillers. (12)

For those who suffer from pain, or who are prescribed opioid painkillers by a healthcare provider, there are natural, non-opioid alternatives for pain relief. Try these remedies instead of using opioid pain killers.

Some natural pain relievers include:

  • Capsaicin: This compound occurs naturally in cayenne pepper. Try adding it to meals or make my homemade muscle rub and apply it to the affected area.
  • Pain-relieving essential oils: Essential oils such as arnica oil or lavender oil can provide some much-needed relief.
  • fentanylSoaking in a hot bath filled with Epsom salt can soothe sore muscles and inflammation.
  • Self myofascial release: Using a foam roller to loosen tissues can do wonders to provide pain relief.
  • Bone broth: Sipping on some bone broth can ultimately help heal leaky gut as well as help build stronger bones, muscles and tissues.
  • Graston technique ®: This manual therapy can help quiet joint and muscle pain.
  • Dry needling: Stimulating trigger points with dry needling can help alleviate muscle pain.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment that helps improve the flow of Qi, or energy, throughout the body, resulting in pain relief.
  • Massage: Massaging deep tissues and muscles can create relaxation and pain relief.
  • Rolfing ®: This manual therapy is another great way to soothe muscles, bones and tissues.
  • Chiropractic adjustments: Eliminate back pain through chiropractic care.
  • Heating pads: Heating inflamed muscles can provide soothing relief.
  • Feverfew: This herb can provide headache relief.
  • Magnesium: The active ingredient in Epsom salt, magnesium you can also take in supplement form to aid in suppressing inflammation.

Final Thoughts

  • Carfentanil is an elephant traquilizer, known as Wildnil, that is 100 times stronger than fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than morphine.
  • Because it’s so strong — an amount the size of a grain of salt is lethal — carfentanil can easily cause an overdose and death.
  • Heroin, fentanyl and other street drugs may be laced with carfentanil.
  • Six or more doses of Narcan may be needed to reverse an overdose.
  • Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone has overdosed.
  • Withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to manage alone; seek medical help and support to successfully detox from carfentanil and other opioids.
  • If you are suffer from pain and/or are prescribed prescription opioid pain killers, try a natural pain reliever instead. It could save your life.

Read Next: Adderall Side Effects & Addition — Plus Natural Alternatives

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