Everywhere you look, the opioid epidemic has been a topic of conversation. The United States is currently experiencing an unprecedented crisis: 116 people a day die from opioid-related drug overdoses. Until recently, the public wasn’t given enough information about this topic. It was merely a story we heard on the news, followed by statistics and a news story. Then we started realizing the magnitude of the problem, and we could see the ways friends, family members, and people in our communities were being affected.

Between 1999 and 2016, 630,000 souls were taken from this earth as a result of overdoses, and 63,000 of them were due to opioids. Drugs such as fentanyl and heroin have fueled this fire, but a lot of the blame can be placed on pharmaceutical companies who push doctors to prescribe their product. In the time leading up to this crisis, pharmacy representatives told doctors carfentanil wasn’t addictive. While this information was false, doctors followed their advice and started prescribing the drugs at historically high levels.

When the government started intervening, doctors stopped prescribing carfentanil to patients so frequently. In turn, a huge influx of individuals started getting these drugs illegally. When someone gets addicted to drugs, their focus is to maintain normalcy so they don’t get sick. Dealers know this fact, so they’ve been cutting heroin with deadly substances such as fentanyl and carfentanil, which are two of the most powerful substances in the world. 

Carfentanil was created as a sedative for large animals such as elephants, so Carfentanil addiction is less common because the drug is more likely to kill you.

What Is Carfentanil?

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that was created to treat large animals after surgeries, injuries, and other painful ailments. The drug is most frequently used on elephants, due to its potency and ability to affect large bodies. Carfentanil is a fentanyl analog, which means the chemical structure and effects are similar to fentanyl. However, the glaring difference is that carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, and 10,000 times stronger than morphine.

The drug boasts such strong effects that only small amounts are made in the United States, as they’re only supposed to supply zoos and animal hospitals. The problem? The precursor needed to make the drug can be obtained on the black market via China. In 2016, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 500 people in the state of Florida were killed due to carfentanil use. Other reports stated another 400 lives were claimed in Ohio back in 2016.

The drug works in a fashion you’d expect from opioids. It attaches to naturally occurring opioid receptors in the brain that block pain signals. When adding strong opioids into the equation, the result is euphoria. As already mentioned, carfentanil is significantly stronger than other opioids, since it increases the dangers of using it. A tiny amount can suppress your nervous system and slow your breathing, which results in death.

Signs of Carfentanil Addiction

While it may be difficult to identify substance use disorders in some, there are telling signs in others. Individuals who are able to hide problems for a while will eventually start exhibiting symptoms as the addiction grows. An addiction to opioids is frequently linked to the use of heroin. In order to avoid getting to this point in addiction, you must seek help if you feel that you or someone you love is experimenting with opioids.

As with any disease, early detection is the key to saving lives. Here are some of the more common signs of opioid addiction:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pinned pupils
  • Excessive yawning
  • Isolation
  • Dry nose and mouth
  • Marks on veins and arms from injections
  • Lying about drug use
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Problems at school or work
  • Legal problems
  • Multiple attempts to quit that fail
  • Urge to use to maintain normalcy                                                                            

Addiction has been defined as the continued, compulsive use of opioids, despite serious consequences. If you’ve been arrested as the result of opioid use and continue to use, it could be a sign of opioid addiction.

What’s Involved in Treatment for Carfentanil Addiction?

Addiction to powerful opioids such as carfentanil can be extremely dangerous. Because of its potency, it’s not as common for someone to become addicted to this drug. The reality is that you’re more likely to die from using the drug than to become addicted to it. Someone that’s already addicted to opioids could stumble across the substance if a bag of heroin is laced with it. However, if you’re able to take the drug, it would result in an extremely powerful high that could lead to dependence or addiction.

If you’ve developed a substance use disorder from opioids, addiction treatment is the best route to recovery. It’s necessary to immediately treat an opioid disorder, in order to overcome the dangerous consequences that could be associated with it. For needle users, these consequences can include infectious diseases, overdoses, and legal troubles that could affect you for the rest of your life. Opioid addiction doesn’t always require detox, but in order to ensure a safe transition through withdrawal, addiction specialists suggest starting in a medical detoxification center.

Medical professionals will continually monitor your health 24/7 throughout your stay. You could be in the detox for three to seven days, depending on the severity of your addiction and other medical problems that may be present. During your stay, you will become prepared for the level of care you’ll complete after detox.

Following a successful detox, the team will determine the next step. This decision will depend on a variety of factors, including the history of relapse, the severity of addiction, the safety of your home, and the underlying factors (such as a dual diagnosis). If the team decides the client may be at more of a risk of relapse, they will transfer them to a residential treatment center, which is where you will live onsite with others on the same path, up to 90 days. You’ll go through cognitive-based therapies that will get to the root of your addiction.

If the team determines a low risk and healthy living environment, you’ll be released into an outpatient program. You’ll attend the same therapies you’d find in residential treatment, but you’ll be able to go home after therapy ends. You’ll be required to attend over nine hours a week and submit to regular drug tests, in order to ensure you’re maintaining sobriety outside of treatment.

How Dangerous Is Carfentanil?

The danger lies in the strength of the drug itself. When you take too much of an opioid, it will suppress your nervous system to the point of respiratory depression. In other words, you’ll start taking shallow breaths until you eventually stop breathing, which can lead to brain damage, coma, and death. Other symptoms include hypotension, disorientation, vomiting, and bradycardia.

Because of the dangers, the effects on the human body are vastly understudied. The exact lethal dose is difficult to know with certainty. There have been cases of accidental exposures of these medications, and in one instance, it was used as a chemical weapon that killed those who came into contact with it.

Carfentanil Abuse Statistics

  • In 2017, a total of 29,406 overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and carfentanil.
  • In 2016, carfentanil was found in 400 overdose deaths in Ohio and 500 deaths in Florida.
  • Between July 2016 and June 2017, 2,275 overdose deaths involved some type of fentanyl analog.
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