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article imageNarcan ineffective against powerful new opioids being used

By Karen Graham     Sep 6, 2016 in Health
Cincinnati - The potent animal tranquilizer carfentanil has been confirmed as being the "unknown" opioid responsible for the latest Midwest OD deaths. Worse still, officials have discovered that Narcan isn't as effective against this powerful sedative.
Usually, one quick spray of the heroin antidote Narcan is enough to block a person's opioid receptors and bring them out of an overdose. But first-responders are having to use two, three or even five doses of the naloxone spray to achieve the same effects.
In the last two weeks, the Hamilton County, Ohio area has reported over 200 overdoses and three deaths, all due to using heroin spiked with fentanyl and carfentanil, a powerful animal tranquilizer. In Ohio, a public health emergency has been declared.
And on Friday last week, a driver pulled over for driving on a suspended license in Cincinnati was found to be carrying the heroin mixture.
Preparing heroin for injection.
Preparing heroin for injection.
Psychonaught | Wikimedia Commons
In the past few years, drug traffickers have been substituting fentanyl for heroin to make the heroin go further. Now, they are also adding carfentanil to the mix, either in powder form or in capsules. Most addicts have no idea what they are buying.
Carfentanil is so deadly that first responders are required to wear masks and gloves because the drug is so powerful that it can be dangerous to someone who touches it or inhales the drug. Police in some jurisdictions carry Narcan spray for their own protection just in case they accidentally get any carfentanil on them.
That is also the reason why law enforcement has stopped field-testing the powders found at the scenes of overdoses. The drug is just too dangerous. NPR.org say the potency of carfentanil was proved viciously effective in 2002 in Moscow, Russia after a hostage rescue went horribly wrong.
Wanting to overpower Chechen terrorists who'd seized control of a theater in Moscow, Russian Special Forces had sprayed an aerosol chemical into the theater to subdue them. Instead, over 100 of the hostages were overcome and died. Tests of the aerosol spray later by British investigators revealed that carfentanil was one of the chemicals in the spray.
It's murder, and Narcan isn't helping
Carfentanil is coming into the U.S. from Mexico and China. And the traffickers bringing carfentanil into the country are making a fortune on it because it takes so little of the drug to induce a high. Additionally, carfentanil is easy to buy on the Internet.
DEA spokesman Russ Baer, says, "You can go on the Internet and anybody can establish an anonymous account, and you can order carfentanil directly from China."
But even more disturbing is the amounts of naloxone required to bring someone back from an overdose. Health officials have been straining to cope with the ever-increasing numbers of OD calls because it is becoming more difficult to revive someone.
“Our antidote, our Narcan, is ineffective,” Sheriff Jim Neil of Hamilton County said, using a trade name for naloxone. “It was meant for heroin. It wasn’t meant for fentanyl or carfentanil.” And the New York Times says some first responders could run out of the antidote, especially when they are having 20 calls a shift and having to use four or five doses.
Tom Synan, who directs the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Task Force in Southwest Ohio, thinks we need tougher penalties. For years, selling drugs on the street has been considered a non-violent crime. But now that synthetic opioids are being used, the penalties have to be changed.
To me, that's just like pulling a gun out and shooting someone, because you know that a tiny bit can kill a person," Synan says. "To me, it's intentional. It's murder."
More about Drugs, carfentanil, fentanyl, Murder, Naloxone
 
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