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posted by martyb on Saturday September 03 2016, @09:35PM   Printer-friendly
from the good-samaritans-beware dept.

When customers want a longer-lasting high, heroin dealers respond by augmenting their products with drugs like carfentanil:

A powerful drug that's normally used to tranquilize elephants is being blamed for a record spike in drug overdoses in the Midwest. Officials in Ohio have declared a public health emergency, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says communities everywhere should be on alert for carfentanil. The synthetic opioid is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, the prescription painkiller that led to the death earlier this year of the pop star Prince. Fentanyl itself can be up to 50 times more deadly than heroin.

In the past few years, traffickers in illegal drugs increasingly have substituted fentanyl for heroin and other opioids. Now carfentanil [alt link] is being sold on American streets, either mixed with heroin or pressed into pills that look like prescription drugs. Many users don't realize that they're buying carfentanil. And that has deadly consequences.

"Instead of having four or five overdoses in a day, you're having these 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50 overdoses in a day," says Tom Synan, who directs the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Task Force in Southwest Ohio. He's also the police chief in Newtown, Ohio. Synan says carfentanil turned up in Cincinnati in July. At times, the number of overdoses has overwhelmed first responders. "Their efforts are truly heroic, to be going from call to call to call," he says. "One district alone had seen 14 in one shift, so they were nonstop."

First responders and emergency room workers are being told to wear protective gloves and masks. That's because carfentanil is so potent, it can be dangerous to someone who simply touches or inhales it. This was devastatingly clear back in 2002, after a hostage rescue operation in Moscow that went wrong. To overpower Chechen terrorists who'd seized control of a theater, Russian Special Forces sprayed a chemical aerosol into the building. More than 100 hostages were overcome and died. Laboratory tests by British investigators later revealed [open, DOI: 10.1093/jat/bks078] [DX] that the aerosol included carfentanil.

In the article about the DEA adding kratom to Schedule I, I mentioned an "unprecedented" amount of "heroin" overdoses in Cincinnati. The carfentanil-cut heroin boosted the overdose tally to 174 in 6 days (225 in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and New Jersey):

Deaths have not spiked along with the overdose reports because police officers or emergency medical technicians are immediately administering naloxone, sometimes in more than one dose, to bring heroin users back to consciousness and start them breathing.


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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Dunbal on Saturday September 03 2016, @11:42PM

    by Dunbal (3515) on Saturday September 03 2016, @11:42PM (#397180)

    A few hundred years ago you could buy laudanum and opium in any apothecary and strangely enough not everyone was a junkie and society was quite productive. What was the argument in favor of prohibition again? There will always be addicts. They existed then, and they exist today. I'm not sure how stigmatizing someone is supposed to make me feel better about myself.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by jelizondo on Sunday September 04 2016, @01:21AM

    by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Sunday September 04 2016, @01:21AM (#397198) Journal

    I’m not a psychologist or anything like that, but I think a good part of the cause for the recent explosion both of drug addiction and suicide [afsp.org], is lack of hope.

    A hundred years ago, at least in the US, if things weren’t looking good where you were, you could always move west and get a fighting chance to lead a good life. Today, kids and young people are hopelessly stuck; it is the same shit no matter where you go.

    I was born before man walked on the moon and even thought we had the hippies and other movements advocating the use of drugs, their use was not as common as today. The times were exciting and full of hope: we could get to the moon, the advances in science, technology and medicine were great and announced practically daily, even societal advances such as desegregation and voting rights gave people hope for a better life.

    Nowadays, gee, you get to choose between crooked Hillary and LoserDonald; it is enough to drive one to hard drugs and hope to die!

    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04 2016, @01:27AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04 2016, @01:27AM (#397200)

      A hundred years ago, men could marry female children.

      Now the only places one can follow God's plan are being bombed by the west.

    • (Score: 2) by quintessence on Sunday September 04 2016, @02:10AM

      by quintessence (6227) on Sunday September 04 2016, @02:10AM (#397211)

      Could it possibly be that drug use feels good, and some people with prolonged use end up addicted?

      It is rather irritating that society fails to address this central point- a good portion of the population finds various forms of intoxication enjoyable, and in lieu of safer alternatives will look towards increasingly dangerous avenues.

      As pointed out above the problem with this isn't the use of drugs per se, but the inability to accurately gauge the drug and dose due to operating in a black market.

      The other part of the equation is all the heroin users who don't, overdose, and even a goodish percentage maintain reasonably productive lives as long as the keep out of the clutches of Johnny Law.

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by jelizondo on Sunday September 04 2016, @04:44AM

        by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Sunday September 04 2016, @04:44AM (#397273) Journal

        You’re right in saying that drug use makes people feel good, whether it is good old caffeine, tobacco or marihuana. In a sense, it helps people deal with anxiety, insecurity and other negative emotional states.

        Back when I was a kid, I could point out to you the one guy smoking pot in the school (because he was my buddy) but I observe nowadays that pot use is very common, followed by cocaine and then on to other, harder drugs. Why?

        Back then, drug abuse was a minority problem; without being racist, drug abuse was mostly a black problem while alcohol abuse was a latino problem. Now, heroin (and other hard opiates) is a white problem.

        And then, you get the rising trend on suicide among white males (linked in my previous comment), which leads me to believe that substance abuse is a response to a feeling of helplessness, a lack of hope for the future and is no longer a problem of minorities, which could be said to have a less rosy future that a white boy back then. Now the future is bleak, regardless of your skin color and white people are less prepared for this dreary future than minorities, because for them it has been the way life is.

        I’m on my way out, so I don’t really give a shit personally about people abusing drugs or outing themselves but I fear for my children and any day now, my grandchildren, that the world is a lot less pleasant that the one I had the fortune to enjoy.

        I believe that as a society, globally, we have failed miserably to deliver a better world to our children.

        I don’t know where we went wrong, but I suspect that we started with Reagan and the “trickle-down economics” which made us all believe that as long as the rich guys got a break, we all would get a break. It was a lie and even today, few people realize that.

        We made society all about money and possessions, not about helping each other and building a community, so now my children and grandchildren will pay the price of our colossal mistakes.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bitter old man. I still work and do very well, thank you. But my children are doing far less well than I was doing when I was their age and with more credentials than I had back then. And it’s not just about my children; I see young people with degrees doing jobs that were reserved for those without proper academic credentials and making far less than we, the older generation, were making back when we were young.

        Sorry for the tirade, I wish I could offer some solution instead of anecdotal evidence, but somewhere, we went horribly wrong and now it’s up to you, the younger generation, to correct our mistakes and make the world better for all of us.

        • (Score: 2) by quintessence on Sunday September 04 2016, @08:03PM

          by quintessence (6227) on Sunday September 04 2016, @08:03PM (#397483)

          Back in the day of Prohibition, unscrupulous bootleggers (and even the federal government) sold methanol to the unsuspecting.

          I see the current deaths from carfentanil following in the same line. If you want to argue that societal malaise has been with us that long, okay, but I see more direct implications that follow from drug policy.

          Addiction rates generally remain static, even among primates and birds. It's been commented that prior to Prohibition, we were a nation of beer and wine drinkers. During and after, tastes moved towards distilled spirits as it is easier to smuggle. Again, it is easy to make a direct connection from use of harder drugs from drug policy.

          • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Sunday September 04 2016, @10:49PM

            by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Sunday September 04 2016, @10:49PM (#397554) Journal

            Thank you for your comment, which led me to read about addiction rates and the surprise that, according to the National Institutes of Health [drugabuse.gov], is rising among people in their fifties or early sixties. I never expected older people to start on drugs, but what the hell, whatever gets you thru the night, as Lennon put it.

            And you are right, drug use has stabilized or decreased nationwide, except for marihuana.

            Hmm. Food for thought. Where is this epidemic of drug use we read about?

            • (Score: 2) by quintessence on Monday September 05 2016, @02:01AM

              by quintessence (6227) on Monday September 05 2016, @02:01AM (#397620)

              That I've read, the increase in addiction rates for the older people is related to lackluster pain management (the whole oxycodone fiasco is a consequence of this. The rational then was that management through a healthcare provider was so much safer. Little did they know they were creating addicts), which is, you guessed it, a consequence of drug policy (they all but mandated that oxycodone was the drug of choice for pain).

              If you are interested, you can read this

              http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm [druglibrary.org]

              which is one of the best resources I've come across detailing the problems with drug policy and how we got here.

              Don't get me wrong, for whatever reasons addiction is going to be an ongoing problem, but policy in nearly every instance has compounded the problems across the board.

              • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Tuesday September 06 2016, @05:26PM

                by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 06 2016, @05:26PM (#398204) Journal

                Thank you for the link, I'll be sure to peruse it as its quite long.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04 2016, @01:33PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04 2016, @01:33PM (#397381)
        Nah. Those who use drugs merely to feel good aren't usually the ones who are the problem addicts.

        It's those who use drugs to feel less bad or even less suicidal. They are the ones who become the addicts that people talk about.

        It's the difference between the people drinking alcohol and having a great time and the people who drink themselves to stupor to forget how bad their life is.

        Yeah both groups can still OD but that ain't an addiction prob.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04 2016, @06:14AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04 2016, @06:14AM (#397300)

      We still have sci/tech advances announced everyday. The only problem is that you'll see no difference in your life and have no job to boot.

    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Sunday September 04 2016, @09:09PM

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Sunday September 04 2016, @09:09PM (#397508) Journal

      Correct answer. And it's not just the use of illegal drugs.