As America’s opioid crisis rages on, dangerous new synthetic opioids continue to flood the illicit drug market, increasing the risk of overdose and deaths for those who abuse opioid drugs. One of these dangerous drugs is known as carfentanil: a deadly synthetic opioid that is intended for large animals but is being abused by humans instead.

About Carfentanil

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid drug and an analog of fentanyl. It is touted as one of the most potent opioids known and commercially used. Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which is a powerful narcotic that has a very high risk for addiction and dependence itself.1,2

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), carfentanil is used as a sedative or general anesthesia for large animals such as elephants and hippos, but it has not been approved for human use. Carfentanil and other fentanyl-related compounds come in several different forms, including:

  • Powder
  • Tablets
  • Spray
  • Blotter paper

These dangerous substances can also be inhaled via airborne powder or absorbed through the skin. Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl-related compounds can be deadly.3

Prevalence of Carfentanil Abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), carfentanil has been linked to a significant number of overdose deaths across the nation. It is also very likely that it is frequently mixed with heroin, cocaine and other street drugs, further increasing its danger to consumers.4 Many people may not even know they are consuming it and even just a tiny bit could cause an overdose or even death.

Despite its deadly effects, the use of carfentanil seems to be increasing. A spokesperson from the DEA told National Public Radio (NPR) reporters that more than 230 drug overdoses in Akron, Ohio (14 of which were fatal) were eventually linked to carfentanil and similar carfentanil outbreaks in other states such as Rhode Island, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, New Jersey, Georgia and Florida soon followed.5

Carfentanil is often sold by illicit sellers in China and shipped into America via the U.S. Postal Service.

Dangers of Carfentanil Use

Since carfentanil is intended for animal use, the effects of the drug on humans are not well known. What is known, however, is that trace amounts of the substance can result in overdose. The next most common effect is death.

While this should be enough to keep people from abusing this deadly synthetic opioid, many individuals are unaware that they are ingesting it, as it is colorless, odorless, and can be easily mixed into a batch of heroin or cocaine that has been purchased on the street or through a dealer.

Drug Detox Is Just the Beginning

Physical dependence and addiction to carfentanil, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids are extremely dangerous and should be addressed immediately. Medically assisted drug detox is the safest way to withdrawal from these substances before beginning a comprehensive addiction treatment program.

Since many individuals who use synthetic opioids may also be unintentionally taking other synthetic substances, it is essential that they complete an individualized and carefully-monitored program at a detox center that will design a treatment plan based on the individual’s unique circumstances and needs.

Polysubstance drug detox is highly complex and unpredictable and should always be completed in a medically monitored environment, such as a detox center. This environment will provide the safest and most comfortable detox experience possible, and a professional treatment team will be able to provide reputable recommendations for ongoing addiction treatment. This may include inpatient or outpatient rehab, sober living, and/or aftercare programs.

While drug detox for carfentanil and other fentanyl-related substances is a major step towards sobriety, it is merely the first. A drug and alcohol detox program should be the first stepping stone in a comprehensive treatment plan for opioid addiction. If you and a loved one need help getting started with this first step, please contact Hill Country Detox today to learn more about our medically assisted drug detox programs near Austin, Texas.



  1. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/carfentanil
  2. https://www.drugs.com/fentanyl.html
  3. https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq092216.shtml
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/emerging-trends-alerts
  5. http://www.npr.org/2017/03/11/519649096/can-china-ban-on-deadly-opioid-save-lives-in-the-u-s
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