Carfentanil is one of the latest drugs spreading despair and destruction across the country. The drug’s growing impact and devastating effects have a growing number of people asking, “What is carfentanil, and what does it do?” The concern is that this drug is even more dangerous than many of those already contributing to the opioid crisis.
What are Opioids
The name ‘opioids’ is used to describe both natural and synthetic drugs. Although both natural and synthetic opioids have similar properties, they aren’t the same. The class of drugs known as opiates are made from the poppy plant. Codeine and morphine are examples of opiate drugs. They are effective painkillers that work by binding to opioid receptors in brain cells. The medication triggers cells to release signals that decrease your sense of pain while boosting feelings of pleasure. The same feeling of euphoria that makes them effective at treating pain also makes them addictive.
Opioids are synthetic drugs made in a lab and formulated to have similar effects as opiates. Heroin, fentanyl, and methadone are examples of opioids. These drugs produce the same euphoric feeling and are just as addictive as opiates.
Both opiates and opioids are used as prescription painkillers. When used as prescribed, they are effective at treating moderate to severe pain. When misused, these drugs are very dangerous. They are not only highly addictive; they also come with a high risk of overdose.
When sold on the street, drug cartels sometimes cut opiates with opioids like fentanyl to make them cheaper to produce. This makes buying and using illegally produced drugs even more dangerous. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is also as much as 50 times more potent than heroin.
What is Carfentanil and Where Does it Fit into the Picture?
Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that has already led to many overdoses and deaths. Like fentanyl, drug dealers are using carfentanil to cut heroin and selling it as pure heroin. It has a white, powder-like appearance that is similar to that of cocaine and heroin. The drug was previously known as “Wildnil.” Its only use was as an animal tranquilizer because of its ability to immobilize the largest animals almost instantly. Carfentanil is a clone of fentanyl but it is 100 times stronger.
It only takes a tiny bit of the drug to cause an overdose in humans. The practice of cutting heroin with the carfentanil puts users at risk without their ever knowing it. Once a person uses it, even by mistake, they may never have the chance to use it again.
Even in large animals, misusing the drug can lead to severe respiratory and cardiovascular problems. It’s not difficult to see how a drug that is potent enough to drop an elephant can have a devastating impact on a human being! That’s why veterinarians who administer the drug wear rubber gloves and face masks to avoid exposure.
Fentanyl has already led to many overdoses and deaths from being mixed into heroin without the user’s knowledge. Now, a drug that is many times more potent is finding its way into the market.
Carfentanil as a Recreational Drug
Getting carfentanil without knowing it is only one way that the synthetic opioid is causing problems. Some recreational drug users are seeking out the ‘intense heroin’ to intensify their experience. Some people who have developed a tolerance to heroin like the idea of boosting the drug’s effect. When dealers promise a more potent form of heroin, they go for it without realizing the potential danger.
Heroin is normally cut with sugars, powdered milk, starch, or quinine. Users can snort, smoke, or inject the drug. It is also offered in tablet, powder, spray, and blotter paper. Another reason carfentanil is even scarier is that inhaling it or absorbing it through your skin is just as deadly. Law enforcement officers and bystanders should think twice before helping a heroin overdose victim. While first responders typically have the necessary equipment to protect them, others without it are putting themselves at risk. Inhaling or absorbing carfentanil through their skin can be fatal.
How dangerous is carfentanil? So much so that some dealers provide Narcan with their clients’ purchases. Narcan is a drug used to reverse overdoses. Some ambitious sellers even administer the Narcan themselves.
What does Carfentanil Exposure Look Like?
Carfentanil exposure causes an intense and rapid onset. Some of the symptoms that might occur include:
• Clammy Skin
• Slow Pulse and Heart Rate
• Pinpoint Pupils
• Cold to the Touch
• Bluish Tinge to Skin, Nails, and Lips
• Difficult or Absent Breathing
Although Narcan is often provided as a means to reverse an overdose, doing so with carfentanil is more difficult than with other drugs. It often takes multiple doses and still may not be effective. Depending on the amount of the drug taken and the amount of time between the exposure and the attempted reversal, the Narcan may not be successful. The person may incur brain damage, go into a coma, or die. If the drug is mixed with other drugs, either deliberately or without their knowledge, the risk of overdose is much greater.
Potential Health Effects of Using Carfentanil
Physical dependence is a potential risk associated with any opioid drug. With one as potent as carfentanil, the risk is even more serious. Like all opioids, this one binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This results in a much greater production of dopamine, giving the user a feeling of euphoria.
If the person uses the drug repeatedly, the brain becomes dependent on the drug. This leads to a physical need for the drug. Addiction to the drug grows until getting more of it is the most important thing in their world.
What is Carfentanil Classified as?
Carfentanil is classified as a Schedule II Controlled Substance. Drugs in this category have a high potential for abuse, have currently accepted medical use, and the potential for abuse to lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Other opioids, including codeine and morphine, are classified in the same way. Although carfentanil has many of the same characteristics as other opioids, it is the drug’s potency which sets it apart. Carfentanil is the most potent opioid being marketed today.
Carfentanil is considered a ‘fentanyl analog’ and is often grouped together in statistics related to opioid use, overdoses, and related deaths. Increasingly, those numbers include more numbers due to carfentanil use. The drug is believed to have been manufactured in China and sent to the United States. Reports of its use began during 2016 when the initial use began in Ohio. From July to December of that year, the state reported almost 400 carfentanil related deaths. Other states which reported carfentanil and other fentanyl analog deaths during 2016 and 2017 include:
• New Hampshire
• New Mexico
• Rhode Island
• West Virginia
What's the Drug Doing in 2018?
One of the main factors that drive drug use is accessibility. Getting legal prescriptions to opioids is challenging unless you have a serious condition that requires painkillers. Getting synthetic opioids from drug dealers is a different matter. If you’re willing to pay the price, finding them isn’t that difficult. Especially if you search online!
Americans aren’t alone in the battle against synthetic opioids. But they are the largest consumers and the hardest hit. An average of 116 people die in this country from an opioid overdose every day. In comparison, carfentanil has the potential to exceed this number exponentially.
The majority of the drug comes from China due to poor regulations of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. This is one area where imposing stiff tariffs might benefit the country. For now, the president and house are only considering cracking down on users and imposing stiffer penalties.
Medicare officials are also attempting to address the problem of opioid use by cracking down on prescriptions for opioids. However, many experts worry that this will only cause people who really need the drugs to go to less reputable sources to get relief. This approach also won’t help with the growing carfentanil problem. It has no medical use and isn’t distributed by prescription.
What is the Estimated Use to be in the Future
Carfentanil use and misuse have continued to grow since 2016. Canada now refers to the drug as the ‘Drug of massive destruction.’ If previous drugs like methadone, fentanyl, and oxycontin are any indication, its use is only going to grow. The practice of cutting heroin with the synthetic opioid makes it very appealing to drug dealers and more dangerous to users.
Stopping the flow of carfentanil into this county will be very challenging. To date, the efforts made by the U.S. government have not been very effective at reducing the problem. The fact is that, even if we stop the influx of drugs from China, the drug is fairly easy to make in a home lab.
One thing we can do is to increase awareness. The more people know about carfentanil and its effects, the less likely they will be to encounter it. It takes only a particle the size of a spec of dust to cause a lethal overdose! If drug dealers are cutting heroin with it to save on costs, how much are they using?
People who use carfentanil are much more likely to overdose than with other opioids. For many, it’s not a worry about becoming addicted. It’s a matter of surviving.
Those who do become addicted to the drug can enter an opioid treatment program for recovery. The best approach is to enter a recovery program as soon as possible.
Parents need to educate their children on drug use and the potential hazards of all opioids. They need to realize the risk of exposure to carfentanil, even when they aren’t the ones using the drug. This is one drug that can be toxic, just by exposing yourself to someone else who uses it. There’s no safe way to use it and no guaranteed way to avoid it if you buy drugs illegally. Some of the bags of drugs confiscated in raids have been marked with a warning that they contain the dangerous opioid. Others don’t have any indication.
Getting Help for Opioid Addiction
People with any type of addiction to opioids or other drugs or alcohol can benefit from special treatment. Getting beyond the use of heroin is one way to ensure you don’t run into carfentanil without realizing it. You also avoid the risks associated with that drug.
The Health and Human Services announced five priorities for dealing with the opioid crisis including:
1. Giving users better access to treatment and recovery services. Having available treatment in a dependable, compassionate center where they can recover away from the pressures that lead to addiction.
2. Increasing the use of overdose-reversing drugs. Drugs like Narcan are more effective against other opioids than carfentanil. Making them more available to first responders could reduce the number of deaths caused by opioids.
3. Increasing awareness and the understanding of the epidemic by implementing better public health surveillance. Understanding the cause of addiction and the role it plays in everyone’s life and community.
4. Providing cutting-edge research for a better understanding of pain and addiction.
5. Better methods of pain management. Making the access to opioids unnecessary due to the introduction of other medications without the same risks.
Some medications used to treat opioid use disorder are highly underutilized. Methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine have the potential to help a lot of people. Finding a treatment center that makes use of medically assisted treatment helps make the process easier.
The opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions in this country. Although every person who uses opioid drugs won’t become addicted, many will. Carfentanil promises to be the next major problem in what is already a nationwide crisis. Don’t let illegal drug use put you at risk for an overdose.
Bringing Awareness to Substance Use & Recovery
This September marks the 23rd National Recovery Month. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsors the event in observance of the benefits prevention, treatment, and recovery have on society. It’s a celebration of people in recovery and the service providers that work with them to move beyond a life with substance abuse.
Every year, SAMHSA creates a Recovery Month toolkit for individuals and organizations. They also offer logos, flyers, television, and web banners on the Recovery Month website. Additional resources include television, radio broadcasts, and social media outreach. No one knows more than recovery professionals what a difference a positive outlook has for individuals dealing with substance abuse.
Why it Matters to Everyone
Substance abuse isn’t just an issue that affects “other people.” Already, millions have been helped by the various programs offered around the world. In addition, 140 federal, state, and local government entities make up the Recovery Month Planning Partners’ group. The group also includes a number of non-profit organizations and associations that play a role in the prevention, treatment, and recovery of mental and substance abuse disorders. The goal of the event is to educate people about how others with mental and/or substance use disorders can lead a healthy, rewarding life.
This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Invest in Health, Home, Purpose, and Community.” The month-long event explores the efforts that go into recovery. It also focuses on the successes and the different areas of life that substance abuse impacts.
Substance abuse doesn’t just affect the individual; it affects their loved ones and everyone in their lives. Parents might feel ashamed when they learn their children are abusing drugs or alcohol. A spouse might tolerate aggressive behavior, making excuses to others who notice it. Some people feel guilty and confused about what to do.
They might try to keep the issue secret from other relatives and friends while trying to figure out how to help their loved one. They want to make things better for them but don’t know how to go about it. Sometimes they lash out in anger and frustration. No one can understand what their loved one is going through. Substance abuse affects the physical and mental health of the individual. It can also impact the health of their loved ones.
The professionals who work to help individuals with substance abuse recover do understand. The war on substance abuse is a long and evolving one in this country. Currently, the focus is on the widespread abuse of opioid drugs. But the substance of choice isn’t always the same. The situation differs from one case to the next, depending on the substance, how much is used, and how often.
There are ways to get past substance abuse. Recovery specialists know how to turn an issue that affects everyone negatively into a better outcome. Recovery can and does happen. That’s what National Recovery Month is all about!
Breaking Down This Year's Theme
The theme for this year’s event covers a lot of areas. It asks everyone to invest in health, home, purpose, and community. Drug abuse impacts each of these areas; recovery does too. When every person gets behind the advancement of recovery, that’s when they invest in a better future for us all.
People choose specific drugs to use because of how they make them feel. The euphoric feeling that opioids cause is one reason abuse of these drugs has reached epidemic proportions. Some people begin using them as a prescription painkiller. These drugs are highly addictive, sometimes leading to addiction even with short-term use. People often become addicted when they use them other than the way they are prescribed. Once they build a tolerance, they need more of the drug to get the same effects.
Some will resort to feigning injuries, doctor shopping, or stealing drugs from others with prescriptions. Sometimes they buy synthetic opioids on the street, putting themselves at an even greater risk.
While most people are aware of the opioid crisis in this country, they aren’t the only drugs being abused. Some of the most common include:
Different drugs, the amount and method of use, and the person’s existing health conditions all play a role in the impact drug use has on a person’s health. They may affect a person’s appetite, ability to sleep, their heart rate and/or blood pressure. Some drugs cause changes in mood or lead to psychosis. They also put the person at a greater risk for stroke and heart attack.
Mental disorders often accompany substance abuse. The drugs change the way their brain works and their decision-making skills. Poor decisions put them at a greater risk of developing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. They are also at a greater risk of getting hepatitis.
Some of these same health effects can happen to the person’s loved ones. They are at a greater risk for stress-induced sleep and eating disorders, violence, and trauma. They may also be exposed to communicable diseases. Women who give birth while abusing drugs also risk causing health problems in their babies. For some, substance abuse leads to overdose and death.
People who have gone through years of substance abuse have some frightening and unique stories to tell. They have experienced emotional and physical trauma that most other people will never know. Many of them also have stories of recovery, success, and living a worthwhile life. Every story of abuse doesn’t end with a story of success. But those that do offer hope. They make it even more important to keep trying to find the answers for every individual.
A home is a lot more than a structure where a person lives: It’s about family. Any person in a family might wear a number of hats. They work for income, perform chores around the house, prepare meals, get an education, take care of the lawn…
Each member of a family has a role to play. They know their responsibilities and the consequences of failing to meet them. When any family member begins to abuse drugs, the changes they go through throw the family dynamic off-balance. The person begins to fall behind in their responsibilities. Their attitude towards the other family members may change. The other family members may respond differently to the situation. One might make excuses for their behavior. Another might ‘laugh off’ the changes.
Without addressing the root problem and getting the affected person into recovery, one person’s substance abuse can destroy the relationships of every family member. The recovery center can help family members understand the effects of addiction. Through family counseling, they can learn the best way to help their family member and start the healing process.
Everyone needs to feel a sense of purpose; a reason for being. Sometimes the lack of purpose is what leads a person to substance abuse in the first place. They may look to drug use as a way to fill a void. But that isn’t always the case.
For others, substance abuse begins seemingly by accident. It might start as a social activity they do with friends. They may initially be successful in the various areas of their life. They might not even realize when using their drug of choice becomes more meaningful to them than everything that mattered to them before.
One of the most important components of a successful recovery is purpose. One reason that many people contribute to the activities during National Recovery Month is to give them purpose. It’s one way that they can share their experiences to make life better for someone else.
Substance abuse affects nearly every community, and even every family to some degree. It could be your teen who has fallen into the wrong crowd. It might be the homeless person walking down your street – the burglar who broke into your home – or the caregiver looking after your grandparent. The impact might be direct or indirect, short-term or long-term. It isn’t limited to ‘certain types’ of neighborhoods or a ‘lower class’ of people. Even if substance abuse isn’t in your home, it’s across the street or just around the corner.
These are just some of the common misconceptions about drug abuse. Many people also think that it’s up to the individual to just stop using. Although the person initially can stop taking the drug, repeated use leads to changes in the brain. Depending on the drug, they may need more to satisfy their craving. At some point, they are unable to quit without having symptoms of withdrawal. Ongoing substance abuse can lead to addiction. Trying to overcome addiction on their own can lead to severe symptoms of withdrawal. It can even cause death.
All people that use drugs aren’t addicted to them. A number of factors, including genetics, psychological factors, family life, and past trauma, make some people more prone to addiction than others. Too often, the person believes they have the mental fortitude to resist addiction.
Another misconception about substance abuse is that it only happens to weak-minded people. People think quitting is a matter of having enough willpower. The reality is that addiction happens in a lot of different ways. It also affects all kinds of people. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they are a drug abuser. Drug abuse and addiction occur to all kinds of people in every walk of life.
What Makes Recovery Successful
The first step towards recovery is detoxification. This process removes all of the abusive substance in the body. Withdrawal symptoms like sweating, nausea & vomiting, chills, anxiety, diarrhea, and tremors are a normal part of the detoxification process. Severe withdrawal symptoms are dangerous and require professionals who know how to lessen their impact.
Once detox is complete, the person will go through various types of therapy. Including their family members is one factor that helps make the recovery more successful. It teaches family members what to do once the treatment is over and the risk of a relapse is at its greatest.
During treatment, experts will examine the mental reasons that led to the person to substance abuse. They will learn what caused them to start abusing drugs. They also learn skills that help them deal with situations that caused them to use drugs in the past.
Once the individual returns to their previous life, they are most likely to start using drugs again. Sometimes, individuals will substitute a new drug in place of the one they used before treatment. Being around the same people and having access to drugs puts them at a greater risk of relapse.
Recovery isn’t something that addicts and drug abusers go through, finish, and get past. They must take an active role in their recovery for the rest of their lives. They will use the skills they learned during treatment to help them make better choices every day and in every situation.
Make National Recovery Month Matter More
This month offers an opportunity for recovery professionals to get the word out about the many successful recoveries that happen every day. They make family members, co-workers, and friends aware of what their loved ones are going through. Many of the so-called facts of drug abuse are really just myths. The more people who realize what goes into recovery, the better we all will be at preventing and stopping substance abuse of all kinds.
Even our country's leaders are taking a hard line approach in response to pleas for help in fighting drug abuse in many areas of the country. Instead of offering a helping hand, they are advocating for stricter legal penalties for drug-related crimes. The president and attorney general have even called for the death penalty in some cases. Now is the time for individuals to step up and make a difference in how we treat people with substance abuse problems.
If you or a loved one is struggling with medication dependence or a substance use disorder, contact Pemarro Recovery Center. We offer expert care based on compassion, kindness, and respect. Let September be the month that you take the first step towards recovery. Make a difference in your life or in that of a loved one who is struggling with the impact of substance abuse.