New on the Scene: Carfentanil

Opioid Crisis Continues

Rampant opioid abuse remains a huge public health crisis in Canada, where fentanyl overdoses have become a relatively common scene for police and health care professionals. Now a new substance has been found on Canadian streets called carfentanil which is adding more fuel to an already uncontrollable fire of addictions and overdoses. The recreational drug users within Canada are already on high alert as fentanyl overdoses are a real danger with deaths becoming a more common tragedy in Canada. Like fentanyl, carfentanil is being laced into other popular street drugs making it particularly dangerous as users are unaware of the potential risks of what they are taking.


“Carfentanil was first synthesized in 1974 by a team of chemists at Janssen Pharmaceutica which included Paul Janssen. It has a quantitative potency approximately 10,000 times that of morphine and 100 times that of fentanyl, with activity in humans starting at about 1 microgram. It is marketed under the trade name Wildnil as a general anaesthetic agent for large animals. Carfentanil is intended for large-animal use only as its extreme potency makes it inappropriate for use in humans. Currently sufentanil, approximately 10-20 times less potent (500 to 1000 times the efficacy of morphine per weight) than carfentanil, is the maximum strength fentanyl analog for use in humans.”1


The risk of death by overdose is very high with fentanyl and carfentanil as these substances are extremely potent. The question of why these substances are even being trafficked as it is very likely to kill those using it is troubling for any recreational user of other street drugs.


“There’s a demand driving this opioid crisis, and organized crime is meeting that demand with more and more toxic opioids, because they’re easier to traffic.”2


Staying ahead of organized crime is no easy task for law enforcement agencies around the country, as carfentanil is now being shipped into Canada to be sold across the country. The risk of carfentanil contact is also dangerous for law enforcement and health care professional as a few grains of carfentanil can be hazardous, or even fatal. Personal safety is a real concern for those who could come into contact with these substances.


“Carfentanil is said to be the most toxic opioid yet. One kilogram of the drug was seized at the Vancouver border in a package originating in China and destined for Calgary. The drug is so potent, protective gear is needed to guard against exposure.”3

Opioid Overdose Help

Educating the public about what to do in the case of a potential fentanyl or carfentanil overdose has been crucial in saving lives across Canada. In response to the opioid health crisis, first responders have been trained to use Naloxone Nasal kits which can be used immediately after an overdose has occurred.


NARCAN® Nasal Spray contains naloxone hydrochloride, a drug that blocks opioid actions. Naloxone is often used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, manifested by respiratory depression (difficulty breathing), sedation (feeling sleepy) and hypotension (unusually low blood pressure). Naloxone is a safe drug and administering naloxone to a person that is unconscious because of a non-opioid overdose is unlikely to create more harm. However, it will not reverse overdoses that are not caused by opioids.4


These kits are not only reserved for medical and law enforcement personnel, the Canadian government has approved these kit to be sold in pharmacies across the country. First aiders and other members of the public who want to be prepared in the case of witnessing a potential opioid overdose can purchase these kits. Those who do purchase these Naloxone kits are required to be trained on how to properly administer them. Public health officials around the country are encouraging people to purchase these kits as the time sensitive nature of overdoses often make it difficult for first responders to reach the person who has overdosed in time. Public service and workplaces across Canada are including the nasal spray in their first aid kits as the growing number of overdose across all communities make the risk for an incident at a University, recreational facility or even workplaces a possibility.


Educating the public on the dangerous nature of recreational drug use and the risks associated with using substance from unknown sources has become more important than ever. The drug climate in Canada is particularly dangerous as fentanyl and carfentanil have been found in various common, less potent, street drugs including cocaine and marijuana. Everyone should be mindful about personal and public safety when in environments where recreational drug use is taking place.




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