October 6, 2017
Imagine a substance so potent that a few specks — the size of a few granules of table salt — can kill you.
If you didn't think the stakes could get any deadlier in the emerging fentanyl crisis, it has. And it's here.
Carfentanil is 100 times stronger than the synthetic opioid fentanyl and is typically used to sedate massive animals like elephants. As fentanyl seizures surge at the U.S.-Mexico border and the deaths blamed on fentanyl overdoses reach new highs, authorities in San Diego are alarmed they have begun to see its more potent cousin.
In one case, authorities in June searched the Clairemont home of a San Diego man accused of trafficking various drugs through the U.S. mail. In the bathroom investigators found a small baggie of 1.77 grams of carfentanil — enough doses to kill 86,000 people, according to a Postal Service inspector.
The emergence of carfentanil in the illicit market tests the limits of how far drug traffickers will take a new drug craze. In September, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public warning about carfentanil as it started surfacing in communities.
"We see it on the streets, often disguised as heroin," DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said in the memo. "It is crazy dangerous."
The attraction to selling such dangerous drugs as fentanyl and carfentanil is in the profits. One kilogram of fentanyl costs $32,000 but can be turned into 1 million pills. At $20 a pop, that's worth $20 million to traffickers.