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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: 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.

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  • (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.