LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Opioid abuse is on the radar of health care professionals and law enforcement nationwide due to a new synthetic version of fentanyl called Carfentanil.
UAMS officials told us that they haven’t seen a lot of overdose patients yet, but the availability of this drug is enough for concern.
Recently, two police officers in New Jersey accidentally inhaled the drug during a routine procedure. In the process of sealing it in a bag, some of it poofed into the air. They said it felt as if they were dying as their bodies shut down.
“You're not going to walk up to it and know it's Carfentanil,” said Dr. Keith McCain with the Pharmacy Control Center at UAMS.
This new cement like drug could kill you.
“There's increased concern about Carfentanil and some other novel synthetic opioids being in the region,” McCain said.
Carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, the drug it mimics.
“You have no idea when you buy this stuff off the street who mixed it or how they mixed it, so you’re really taking a chance,” said Officer Steve Moore with the Little Rock Police Department.
McCain doesn't want people to overlook the severity of this concern.
“It could look like a pill or could be powder," he said. "A lot of it has been described as cement or concrete with a grayish tint to it."
In addition to police, this new opioid poses risk to medical examiners, coroners, and laboratories.
“A lot of times when we go to overdoses or an arrest and the subject has some type of powder on them, we don't know what it is at that time,” said Moore.
Skin exposure or inhalation of Carfentanil could cause accidental overdose to anyone who encounters it.
“If you've got it on your hand and you happen to touch your eye or your mouth, it could absorb and it goes in very quickly,” Moore added.
Designed in 1974, Carfentanil was used exclusively for veterinary use with large animals and is not approved for use in humans.
“Four or five days ago several Tennessee agencies said they were concerned Carfentanil was in the area," McCain said. "Its spreading from the northeast to this direction.”
He also warned that the internet has elevated this issue as drugs are no longer sold just on the streets.
Moore urged family members of drug addicts to try and eliminate any exposure of powder or pills as it could be deadly for you too.