Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, October 08, 2016

In The Eye of a Deadly Drug Storm

"We are already in the eye of a deadly storm in fighting the horrific impacts of fentanyl in our communities."
"We are now even more challenged by the arrival of carfentanil on our streets."
RCMP Alberta commanding officer, Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan

"To my knowledge, there are very few laboratories in North America that are able to measure carfentanil in human blood [other than the lab associated with the office of Alberta's Chief Medical Examiner."
"With two cases now having been identified, it is prudent to inform Albertans about this health safety concern -- this is a very dangerous illicit drug."
Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim, acting Chief Medical Examiner, Alberta

"We know this is a huge problem and we're doing everything we can to counteract it. Everyone has a stake in this."
"[A kilogram of carfentanil seized by authorities in August, a case in point.] That had the potential to produce 50 million doses. [A deadly amount of a killer drug whose threat] is difficult to comprehend."
RCMP Superintendent Yvon de Champlain
In this June 27, 2016 photo provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a member of the RCMP opens a printer ink bottle containing the opioid carfentanil imported from China, in Vancouver. Drug dealers have been cutting carfentanil and its weaker cousin, fentanyl, into heroin and other illicit drugs to boost profit margins. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police via AP) ORG XMIT: NY972 AP

As though fentanyl didn't pose enough of a problem in users inadvertently using it, thinking they are in possession of far less potent illegal drugs, but which contain fentanyl as a cheap filler. Its potency is deadly, so much so that it presents a life-and-death risk when first-responders and/or medical personnel are exposed without protective gear -- so much so that when they respond to these situations they routinely carry with them an antidote, for use both with any victims of fentanyl who haven't died, and for themselves in case of unavoidable exposure.

Now comes another potentially fatal and even more powerful synthetic chemical that was laboratory-devised for use with gigantic animals as a tranquilizer. Carfentanil is classified as an opioid drug licensed specifically with animals like elephants, not humans, in mind. A potentially lethal amount of the drug is no greater than the size of a grain of sand. This is a drug that kills through suppression of the respiratory functions resulting in the brain being starved of oxygen.

A dart loaded with carfentanil and a cocktail of other drugs in preparation for tranquilizing a moose in this file photo from 2013. Carfentanil has been blamed in two deaths in Alberta.
A dart loaded with carfentanil and a cocktail of other drugs in preparation for tranquilizing a moose in this file photo from 2013. Carfentanil has been blamed in two deaths in Alberta. (Dave Orrick/Associated Press/Pioneer Press, ) 

So if laboratories in North America aren't producing this dead drug, where is its source? Whoops, of course, the very source that provides the world community with all manner of inexpensively-manufactured products; China. Irrespective of the drug's known dangers, vendors from China remain open to selling carfentanil online for worldwide export.

The Associated Press identified a dozen Chinese enterprises easily contacted online stating they are prepared to export carfentanil to Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and Australia. The cost for a kilogram with the potential to kill thousands of people? An 'affordable' $2,750. That's entrepreneurial business for you...!

The United States has had its experiences with carfentanil, introduced to the Detroit area this past summer where 19 deaths related to the drug occurred since July, according to local health officials. As far as official China is concerned, the problem is not one it is prepared to act upon, to regulate it as a controlled substance, although American authorities are pressing to have it blacklisted.

It has taken up to now for the drug to show up in Canada, and to have it tested. For comparison purposes carfentanil's toxicity is considered a hundred times more than that of the painkiller fentanyl, itself infamous for being infinitely more toxic than morphine. To place the matter in even more detailed perspective, carfentanil is 10,000 times deadlier than morphine.

Fentanyl is responsible for the deaths of 153 people in the first half of 2015 alone, in Alberta. And it is only recently that toxicology tests in Canada could confirm the presence of carfentanil, owing to the extremely low dosage required for it to be deadly;explaining why its detection has, up to the present time, been elusive.

The greatest concern that policing and health authorities are expressing is that the deadly drug may be circulating among the chronically addicted, the homeless, the middle-class suburbanites who use opioids without realizing that what they're using might be cut with a fatally dangerous drug, thus placing themselves at high risk for early death.

The profit motive of moving readily accessible, cheap drugs to a demanding market makes it difficult to produce inroads in halting the marketing of this lethal illicit drug, One of several fatalities that had tested positive for a wholesale overdose was detected with both fentanyl and carfentanil in the bloodstream, either of which might have produced death, but together a certainty to do so.


Chemical compound
Carfentanil or carfentanyl (also known as 4-carbomethoxyfentanyl) is an analog of the synthetic opioid analgesic fentanyl. It was found to be four orders of magnitude or 10,000 times more potent than morphine, making it one of the most potent known and the most potent commercially used opioids. Carfentanil was first synthesized in 1974 by a team of chemists at Janssen Pharmaceutica which included Paul Janssen. It is marketed under the trade name Wildnil as a general anaesthetic agent for large animals.
Side effects of fentanyl analogs are similar to those of fentanyl itself, which include itching, nausea and potentially serious respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening.
Canonical SMILES:
Chemical Formula:
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