Carfentanil - The Latest Killer Opioid to Hit the United States

(Photo: CBSA/Twitter)

An insane arms race is underway on the black market for illicit drugs.

Only a few weeks ago, I reported on a new synthetic opiate called W-18 making an appearance in the Philadelphia region. It is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, the drug that killed Prince. That makes W-18 an incredible 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.

If you thought, it couldn’t get any worse, you were mistaken. W-18 is now joined by yet another killer drug. Several overdose fatalities in Ohio have been linked to the equally powerful opiate carfentanil which is typically used by veterinarian to sedate elephants. I has shown up in Oregon as well.


In humans, even miniscule amounts of carfentanil can be lethal and the opioid antidote naloxone could be ineffective. Like fentanyl and W-18, it is most likely mixed with or disguised as heroin, so users are unaware of what they are ingesting.


Unfortunately, more seems to be on the way. The Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) recently seized a kilogram of carfentanil which could have produced 50 million doses on the street. According to the CBSA, the drug shipment originated in China and was intended for a Calgary man who has been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.


It’s unlikely that American or Canadian border protection agents will be able to stop all future shipments of this kind. The less potent fentanyl has already presented serious additional challenges for law enforcement and addiction professionals in the ongoing opioid epidemic.


In March 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert identifying fentanyl as a threat to public health and safety. The DEA warned that the number of states reporting 20 or more fentanyl seizures every six months is increasing.


Heroin laced with fentanyl is so dangerous that a deputy director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy has compared it to “dropping a nuclear bomb.”


With substances like W-18 and carfentanil in the mix, the yield of that nuclear bomb becomes ever more frightening.