It hasn’t come to Hartford yet, but EMS in states such as Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Florida have encountered patients who have overdosed on heroin laced with Carfentanil, an opiate of the synthetic fentanyl family that is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and usually used to tranquilize elephants.  Carfentanil is basically a chemical weapon of mass destruction that drug dealers are getting from Mexico via labs in China to give their heroin an extra kick to help increase their profits.  The drug is so powerful it poses a threat to police and EMS responders if they come into contact with it either through touch or inhalation.

Drugs like Fentanyl and Carfentanil made in a laboratory are a much cheaper, cleaner way for the drug trade to maximize their profits than to have to rely on growing acres of opium and harvesting them, and all the handoffs required to get from the foreign poppy field to the USA city streets. Cut your heroin with baby formula and sprinkle some fentanyl on top to boost the potency.

While these new opiates have increased the rate of overdose deaths, this is not particularly bad news for the dealers.  In the Northeast where most dealers brand their product with their own stamp, such as Black Jack, Ferrari, and Night Owl, a death or two and a spat of overdoses can do wonders for a particular dealer’s brand.  I recently watched an episode of Drugs, Inc. called Heroin Island, covering drug dealing in New Jersey and Staten Island, New York. In the episode, a dealer admitted to pouring liquid fentanyl into random bags of a new batch of heroin to achieve just that effect  to cause an overdose or death and highlight word of his brand’s potency  to generate more business.  Here in Hartford, I have had addicts ask me what the hot brands are.  When I have asked them if they are worried about Oding themselves, that is not much of a fear for many of them.  They are not looking to off themselves; they are just looking for high grade dope to give themselves a better high.  For many addicts, the longer they do heroin, the less shooting up is about getting high as it is about feeling normal again, chasing away the sickness of constant withdrawal.  They long for the first glorious experience they had with the white powder that still eludes them.

I doubt this will change should the King Kong sleepy time powder come to town.  Heroin does, after all, rewire the medulla oblongata to disable the addict’s ability to think rationally. It’s all about the next fix. The future isn’t really a concept for them beyond a few hours.

The Cafentanil story, the use of chemical weapons grade powder as an additive to your product with the intent of killing some of your customers to boost marketing and profits, is chilling.  But when I think about it longer, I don’t know if it makes me inclined to reserve a special place in hell for these dealers. Where they are going, they will have company. How different are their practices from those of mainstream business who ignore or hide evidence of their products causing cancer, heart disease, obesity, or are known to them to be unsafe, capable of killing or maiming? At least you can’t accuse the heroin dealers of false advertising, particularly when they brand their product with deadly slogans and imagery like Strike Dead, R.I.P, Dead Man, Black Widow, Pray for Death, and Skull and Cross Bones.

Elephant tranquilizer carfentanil linked to 19 deaths in Wayne County

Deadly Opioid Overwhelms First Responders And Crime Labs in Ohio

Heroin Is Being Laced With a Terrifying New Substance: What to Know About Carfentanil

Deadly Powder Overwhelms First Responders

Opioid Epidemic Fueled by Carfentanil Imported from China




  • Greg Friese says:

    Peter, your ongoing coverage of the opioid epidemic is excellent and fascinating. Thanks for sharing what you are learning on the streets of Hartford.

  • Garrett says:

    I have encountered numerous pts here that have used heroin laced with fentanyl and it is definitely more potent. Normally u can use 2mg of narcan to reverse the heroin overdose, but with pts that have used heroin laced with fentanyl, we have to use 4-6mg of narcan to reverse the OD or more. We have also had some that died from it.

  • Andy says:

    Jacksonville, FL: My daughter’s mother overdosed from a single 30mg Oxycodone tablet (done intranasally I believe, but also could have been intravenously). It turned out to be laced with Fentanyl. Our 3 year old and I found her in the car in the driveway and were helped immediately by first responders who saved her life with Narcan.

    Thank you all for what you do. My daughter wouldn’t have a mother today if it wasn’t for folks like you. I was an opiate addict too but my daughter saved my life — I understand it’s not easy.

    One of the paramedics told me what was in it. His daughter, who also struggled with opiate addiction, lived in that very house before my ex moved in and he always worried about being called there. The man helped saved my family. Thank you all so deeply.

  • Stacey Petrigliano says:

    How much is 1-5 mg of Carfentanil?

    • medicscribe says:

      1 mg is enough to sedate a baby elephant or a bear. It has been reported that as little as 20 micrograms can be fatal to a human.

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