Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that induces effects similar to heroin, but it is as much as 50,000 times more potent. It is an analog of fentanyl—another powerful painkiller used to mitigate severe pain and in clinical settings for general anesthesia.
However, unlike fentanyl, carfentanil is not approved for human use. In fact, it is only used to sedate large animals, namely elephants.
Carfentanil is so powerful that people who handle it are required to wear protective gear to prevent accidental skin contact. Indeed, exposure to even a minuscule amount can easily prove lethal. Carfentanil has been associated with hundreds of overdose fatalities in the United States in recent years, as a result of drug dealers combining it with heroin and other substances.
On rare occasions, some people have been known to build a tolerance to opioids high enough to sustain the abuse of carfentanil. However, most exposed to it do not know that this deadly substance is present in their drug of choice. The presence of carfentanil in illegal street drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, is an increasingly concerning problem.
Side Effects of Carfentanil
Due to its high potency, the most common and unfortunate effect of carfentanil use is death. Individuals who ingest carfentanil and do not die will experience effects similar to those associated with other powerful opioids commonly abused at epic proportions such as heroin or fentanyl.
Besides a brief euphoric high and profound sedation, side effects of carfentanil include the following:
- Runny nose
- Dry mouth
- Slurred speech
- Sleep disturbances
- Excessive sweating
- Anxiety and depression
- Muscle aches and pains
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Impaired concentration
- Impaired memory
- Loss of consciousness
- Stupor or unresponsiveness
- Perilously depressed respiration
Street Names for Carfentanil
Common slang terms for carfentanil include the following:
- China White
- China Girl
- Drop Dead
- Gray Death
- Serial Killer
- Tango and Cash
Carfentanil has an extremely high potential for addiction when abused. Addiction is characterized by tolerance and dependence, two conditions that develop over time upon repeated use.
Tolerance occurs because, with regular use, the brain stops reacting to the drug as intensely as it once did—in other words, repeated exposure = diminished response. Due to this reduction in effects, users may be driven to consume an increasing amount of the drug to achieve the sought-after experience. For this reason, people who develop a high tolerance are also at a much higher risk of experiencing an overdose and dying.
Dependence occurs when the brain and body become accustomed to the presence of a substance. When this happens, it will no longer be able to function correctly without it, and highly unpleasant and even painful withdrawal symptoms manifest when the person tries to discontinue use. These symptoms are not usually lethal, but in the most extreme instances, they can be.
Addiction also causes many adverse behaviors that reflect its nature. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Obsessive drug-seeking behavior despite adverse consequences that are incurred
- Stealing items or borrowing money to support one’s habit
- Neglect of critical responsibilities associated with school, work, or family
- Engagement in drug-related criminal activity and experiencing legal problems as a result
- Financial issues
- Family conflict and interpersonal strife
A carfentanil overdose can only be treated effectively with the drug naloxone (Narcan). This antidote is an opioid antagonist that reverses the drug’s effects and reverses life-threatening CNS (central nervous system) depression. But because carfentanil is so potent, it may take more than one dose of naloxone to be administered to save a life.
Signs of an overdose may include the following:
- Depressed breathing
- Slow or absent pulse
- Pale or bluish skin and nails
- Gurgling noise (death rattle)
- Limpness in extremities
- Cold and clammy skin
Treatment for Carfentanil Addiction
Just Believe Recovery offers professional, research-based services for substance use disorders. Treatment for carfentanil abuse typically begins with a medically-supervised detox. During this process, the individual is monitored for several days to prevent relapse and ensure his or her safety. Medications can be administered to minimize any potential withdrawal symptoms and make the person more comfortable.
After detox is completed, persons in recovery are encouraged to participate in a comprehensive rehab program. During this time, he or she will receive therapeutic interventions, such as psychotherapy and counseling. Treatment also usually includes 12-step peer group meetings, experiential activities, such as art and music therapy, and holistic practices, such as yoga and mindfulness meditation.
After discharge, aftercare coordinators help the individual find external resources, such as counselors, psychiatrists, and group support programs.
If you or your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, we urge you to seek our help as soon as possible. You CAN overcome substance abuse and addiction and reclaim your life! Please contact us to discuss treatment options and find out how we can help!