U.S. officials were relieved to hear last week that China is finally going to be putting carfentanil on its controlled substances list as of March 1. This means that it will be considered just as dangerous as its weaker cousin, fentanyl. Carfentanil is estimated to be about 10,000 times more powerful than morphine – so powerful, in fact, that police officers are advised to handle it with extreme caution and even go through a decontamination process when intercepting an imported shipment of it.
The incredibly strong, and incredibly addictive, carfentanil and fentanyl have had major roles in the current opioid crisis that has taken the country by storm. Both drugs have killed thousands of unsuspecting Americans after being mixed into what they thought was solely heroin that they were purchasing. Heroin overdoses have more than tripled in the U.S. in a measly four-year time period (2010-2014), and a large part of that can be attributed to the fact that drug users underestimate just how strong the stuff they are putting into their bodies can be.
Carfentanil is typically kept on hand by zookeepers as an elephant tranquilizer – that's how strong it is. American drug dealers have been emphatically working with Chinese companies to import the drug so as to cut their heroin supplies with it. Now that China is blacklisting carfentanil, U.S. officials hope and expect that the number of overdoses and deaths in the U.S. will significantly decrease, now that such a powerful substance will be a lot more difficult to get ahold of.
From July through October of 2016 alone, the DEA confirmed that more than 400 shipments of carfentanil were seized across eight American states. And in its most recent assessment, the DEA confirmed that of the 130 people who, on average, died every day in the U.S. in 2014 from an overdose, over 60 percent of those cases were related to either heroin or opioids.
The DEA warns that carfentanil is "approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl." The DEA also confirmed that the dosage of carfentanil that is considered to be lethal to a human is currently unknown. This is because of its status as an animal tranquilizer – its "extreme potency" makes it "inappropriate" for human consumption.
Included in their report, so as to really drive the point home, was a picture of a tiny pile of carfentanil powder displayed next to a penny. The size of the pile was only slightly larger than Abraham Lincoln's ear on the penny, yet that 2-milligram pile is potent enough to be lethal to humans.
Interestingly, China has changed its tune on carfentanil when, only months ago, one of the senior officials at China's Ministry of Public Security's Narcotics Control Bureau said that there was no proof that carfentanil was to blame for the sudden rash of deaths that occurred in both Europe and the U.S. The official referred to related reports as being nothing more than "mere speculation."
Agents in the U.S., however, never stopped fighting for a change of carfentanil's status in China. They even turned to the Chemical Weapons Convention for assistance.