600 milligrams of morphine or 60 vials, with one vial being therapeutic dosage and 10 being toxic.
“So one drop of carfentanil was six times the toxic dose of morphine,” Caulkett said.
The drug is not used in zoology setting much anymore, on account of it being too powerful for one-ton animals.
Addicts who obtain carfentanil-laced street heroin are usually unaware it has been adulterated with carfentanil, which has caused a massive spike in opioid-related overdoses in the Midwest region.
The question as to why carfentanil first appeared in the region remains a mystery, but there are a few possible explanations. The synthetic nature of the drug means it can be produced anywhere and does not have to be smuggled in from a drug-producing region, as is the case with heroin. The precursors used to manufacture carfentanil can be purchased from Mexico or China and then manufactured stateside.
It appears carfentanil is not being imported into the United States via traditional drug smuggling avenues either. An Associated Press report on carfentanil found the drug is likely imported via the internet from China, where its manufacture is not controlled due to a loophole.
Authorities in the United States are struggling to deal with the importation issue, and not just to protect addicts. Carfentanil is so strong the DEA fears it could easily be weaponized and used in mass quantities against large crowds, as was the case in the Moscow Theater Siege of 2002, which was initially blamed on a mysterious “compound based on fentanyl.”
Right now, the overriding concern in the States is how to treat the addicts that are unwittingly, intentionally using the drug. Paramedics are struggling with how to treat carfentanil overdoses, since the drug’s action is so much more radically powerful and long-lasting than other opioids.
Caulkett explained that naloxone – otherwise known Narcan, a drug used by medical professionals to block the effects of opioids — “is not really effective against carfentanil. We learned that back in the 80s. We had to switch to injectable naltrexone.
“The problem is carfentanil lasts about two hours. So you need several doses of naloxone to counteract it. Naloxone is not as effective as it even is with fentanyl.”
While currently only seven states are struggling with how to deal with a spike in carfentanil-related overdoses, the rest of the country braces for its arrival.
“It’s all over right now,” Caulkett said. “It’s showing up all over North America. A lot of my research has been to develop alternatives to carfentanil. A slight error in the math could very easily result in a lethal dose for a human.
“The fact that people are trying to cut it down to a safe dose boggles my mind.”