Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid indicated for use as a sedative only very large animals, such as elephants. At 100 times more powerful than fentanyl itself (and 10,000 times stronger than morphine) it is probably the most potent and potentially deadly drug on the planet.
Last year, the elephant tranquilizer drug was responsible for a large number of deaths, particularly in Ohio. Like its weaker cousin fentanyl (which is still incredibly potent) it has been increasingly found cut into heroin as a buffer to increase profits.
But users often don’t know what’s in their heroin or other drugs they are purchasing, and the presence of either fentanyl or carfentanil is akin to playing Russian roulette. An amount of carfentanil equal to a grain of salt can result in very rapid death.
Even incidental skin contact of either drug can be enough to cause an overdose, and those who may be exposed through handlings, such as medical professionals or veterinarians, must wear protective gear to avoid fatal contact. The anti-opioid overdose naloxone can reverse a life-threatening overdose, but in the case of fentanyl and carfentanil, sometimes multiple doses are required.
In January, A York City woman was attacked and seriously injured while overdosing on carfentanil. The woman was the home of friend Trisha George, 30, where she received and snorted what she thought was heroin from her friend’s boyfriend, Christopher Waltz, 29.
While she was overdosing, George allegedly struck her multiple times in the head and upper body. The woman required hospitalization and months of follow-up treatment. Official documents do not reveal the reason for the attack.
At the time of this writing, George and Waltz are wanted on felony warrants. George will be charged with aggravated assault, and Waltz will be charged with opioid possession, among other offenses.
Also in York County, a confirmed death by carfentanil occurred in June, but the York County Coroner Pam Gay did not release more information due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Also last month, officials in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania announced that the county had experienced its first known overdose deaths from carfentanil.
Toxicology reports discovered the drug in the system of a man, 43, who was found deceased in Lower Merion on June 10. A second man, 65, was from Philadelphia and was taken to Lankenau Hospital for an overdose on June 13 and died later that day.
Then, carfentanil was found in the body of a man from Chester County. The Phoenixville man, 34, died on July 4 in this residence from “acute Carfentanil toxicity,” and Damon Alfred Eskridge, 20, of Phoenixville was later charged with selling the elephant tranquilizer drug.
Law enforcement reported that Eskridge was arrested after uncover police officers set up a drug purchase with him using the victim’s cell phone. Eskridge is facing up to 20-40 years in prison if convicted.
On March 24, Michael Martinez, 26, and Camillo Sanchez, 30, were discovered deceased at a residence in the El Jebel area. In April, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation tested the pills and found they contained heroin laced with carfentanil.
In July, Florida man Samuel Brunelus, 23, was arrested on manslaughter in association with the deaths of the two men to whom he allegedly provided the drugs. According to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Brunelus was arrested and taken into custody in Deerfield on July 11.
Brunelus was linked to the pills that killed the two men after a long investigation conducted by the Eagle County Sheriff’s office in collaboration with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
At the time of this writing, Brunelus is being held at the Broward County Detention Facility for two counts of manslaughter and distribution of a Schedule II controlled substance and is awaiting extradition to Colorado.
Last month, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced that there had been at least ten deaths in the state linked to carfentanil and that 18 people had been indicted on charges of possession and sale of the drug.
MacDonald also said that his office was examining 39 cases involving fentanyl, and said that the majority of the cases were in the southern part of New Hampshire and that they believed the drugs were being brought in from other states.
Recently WKTT reported that two EMS personnel in Owingsville, Kentucky, and one infant were sent to the hospital after exposure to heroin laced with carfentanil. First responders were transporting a patient to the hospital when the driver became ill and was forced to pull over.
The driver was given naloxone and taken to the emergency room while a police officer took over the transportation of the patient in the ambulance. Soon after, EMS received a call that an infant from the same residence was also exposed to the elephant tranquilizer drug, likely airborne.
A member of the personnel who transported the infant to the hospital also then fell ill and had to be hospitalized as well. Fortunately, in this case, everyone was expected to experience a full recovery