It has the greatest potency of any commercially available opioid in the world, at 10,000 times the strength of morphine, 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
It is used as an elephant sedative and can also be easily absorbed through the skin, as well as inhaled, posing a huge risk to anyone who might accidentally come into contact with it. A tiny dose (equivalent to a few grains of table salt) can prove lethal. Street names include “C.50”, “Drop Dead” & “Serial Killer”.
Unlike fentanyl, carfentanil is illegal in most countries. In the UK, it is not used in medicine and is not prescribed to patients. The drug depresses the respiratory system of the user, which can be fatal. It can also cause other side effects such as itching and nausea.
Increasing numbers are overdosing on carfentanil
Carfentanil has been implicated in a growing number of opioid-related deaths in the US and in the UK. Increasingly, drug dealers are lacing heroin and other opioid drugs with the drug to increase the potency. These same dealers sometimes offer Naloxone to revive the user in the event of an overdose but carfentanyl is so strong that naloxone will often not work the first time.
Drug users may also be knowingly experimenting with the drug. These people may begin by taking heroin or prescription opioid drugs such as oxycontin and eventually move on to increasingly potent and dangerous synthetic opioids such as carfentanyl.
Exposure to carfentanil produces signs and symptoms very similar to those of opioid toxicity and overdose:
- Pinpoint (constricted) pupils,
- Dizziness, lethargy, sedation,
- Shallow breathing (respiratory depression),
- Loss of consciousness,
- Nausea, vomiting,
- Heart failure, weak or absent pulse,
- Cold, clammy skin,
- Cardiac arrest,
Carfentanil in the UK
The National Crime Agency in the UK has issued a warning to drug users that fentanyl and carfentanil have been detected in heroin in North-East England. The drugs have been implicated in recent deaths in Yorkshire, Cleveland and Humber.
Do you need help with fentanyl or heroin addiction?
If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids such as heroin or fentanyl and need help please contact Castle Craig on our confidential 24 hour phoneline or use our non-obligation online pre-admission form. Our experienced team will be able to assess your situation and give you the advice you need to begin a life free from drugs.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | September 10, 2021