Good Question: What is the drug Carfentanil?
COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - Authorities are warning the public about an illegal drug found in the Clemson area earlier this month that experts say is far more dangerous than fentanyl or heroin.
It's called carfentanil. Veterinarians use it to sedate large animals, something the size of an elephant.
It has no human use. But, people are taking it.
"A very, very small amount could harm or even kill somebody," said Nicole King, a prevention specialist at LRADAC in Columbia. "Carfentanil is a very dangerous synthetic opioid 10,000 times stronger than morphine."
Experts say the dangerous drug is a death wish. An amount as small as a grain of salt has the potential to kill a human.
Last week, authorities in Maryland blamed at least two deaths on the synthetic opioid. There have been others on the West coast and the Midwest.
The drug can come in a variety of forms, like powders, tablets, blotter paper and sprays. It's part of an arms race in the drug trade, where dealers and addicts are looking to come up with the next big high.
It's often mixed with cocaine or heroin. Many times, people aren't even aware they're taking it.
Addiction specialists say it's part of the much larger issue of opioid addiction.
"We want families to talk about this with their kids. This is a problem that's being seen all over the country as well as in our state," said King.
After it was found in the Clemson area, police there posting about the dangers on the department's Facebook page, urging people "Do NOT try to collect or dispose of the substance on your own."
Investigators there linked the drug to two cases first believed to be alcohol poisoning. However, toxicology results showed the presence of carfentanil.
Last fall, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public warning about the drug, calling it "crazy dangerous."
It can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled, and its effects usually appear within minutes, causing severe, even fatal respiratory issues.
Drug experts are also warning all first responders to be aware of carfentanil so they don't come in contact with it at a crime scene or during potential overdose cases.
"First responders need to be very careful if they think they're going to come in contact with this drug," said King. "Just it touching their skin could be lethal."
If you or anyone you know has a problem with addiction, there is help available. You can call LRADAC at (803) 726-9300.
Opioid addiction can often begin in the home if people find unused prescription pills in a medicine cabinet an experiment with them.
That's why the agency is also teaming up with Midlands law enforcement this weekend for a prescription drug take-back day. You can find more information by clicking here or calling local police.